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Dallas Shows GOP Convention Group Why It's Called 'Big D'

Shelley Kofler
Dallas gave RNC members choosing a 2016 convention site a taste of what a balloon and confetti drop would look like.

Republicans choosing the 2016 site for their national convention found out Thursday why Dallas is called “Big D."

At the American Airlines Center, members of the site selection walked the red carpet as they entered. They were met by cheerleaders for the Dallas Mavericks and Stars and by two elephants, representing the Republican Party’s mascot.

“I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I was going to pet a few elephants on my way into the arena. But that was a nice touch,” National Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus said. “Only in Dallas.”

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA
Republican National Finance Chair Ray Washburne, far left, joined Dallas and National Republican Party officials at a press conference.

Priebus and the site selection committee also got a taste of what it might feel like to have their presidential nominee announced at American Airlines Center.

First they watched Ronald Reagan’s 1984 nomination in Dallas play on the Jumbotron; then confetti and balloons dropped from the rafters.

“Dallas does it big, what can I say,” said Enid Mickelsen, chair of the site selection committee.

She and Priebus have made it clear, however, that deciding among Dallas, Cleveland, Kansas City and Denver will be a business decision.

At a press conference, both suggested all the contenders have adequate hotels, transportation, arenas and hometown spirit.

So what’s left?  It might be the $60 million the host city must raise.

“Each city has come up with a different way they think they can get to that that money we think it’s going to take to put on the convention,” Mickelsen said.

Credit Shelley Kofler / KERA News
Retired Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Texas GOP Party Chair Steve Munisteri were part of the team hosting the Republican site selection committee.

“So one of the things we have to weigh out is: How realistic are those plans and what confidence do we have in the various ways they have approached that?”

Dallas says it would have access to $25 million the state makes available for big events. It’s already raised $20 million privately. That means it would need to come up with another $15 million. 

That’s where Dallas businessman Ray Washburne might come in. Washburne just happens to be the National Republican Party’s finance chairman. So he knows how to raise money.  

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has announced Washburne would lead the host committee if Dallas is selected.  

“The $60 million to raise is not going to be an easy figure for anyone. But this is the strongest donor base we have in the whole country is based in Dallas,” Washburne said.

Ray Hunt and Harlan Crow are among the big Republican donors showing their support by hosting events during the visit by the RNC committee.

Dallas will find out in August if its collection of contributors and its flair for the fantastic help seal the deal. That’s when Republican convention officials plan to announce its choice. 

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.