The New Orleans City Council will ask the city's tourism leaders to apply as a host city for presidential or vice-presidential debates in 2020.
A City Council resolution encourages tourism groups to apply to the Commission on Presidential Debates by April 2. The commission will announce debate dates and locations later this year.
Debate sites would require nearby hotels that can house at least 3,000 people. The event also would require an air-conditioned hall that's at least 15,000 square feet, a parking lot to fit 40 satellite trucks up to 53 feet long, a media center for press and a press parking lot for at least 500 vehicles, and an accreditation center with parking for at least 75 cars.
The resolution is directed to Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Stephen Perry, president of New Orleans & Co., which wasn't aware of the resolution.
New Orleans never has hosted a presidential debate.
The commission skipped over New Orleans for 2008 debates, despite the city resuming its hosting duty for the Sugar Bowl in 2007 and selected as the NBA All-Star game's host city for 2008 following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. (The city "did not measure up,” according to the committee's search party summary.) In a statement, then-presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said the commission "missed a golden opportunity to show New Orleans that the entire country is committed to its recovery."
"Choosing New Orleans as the site of one of our nation's great democratic events would have been a chance to reaffirm" a commitment to the city's comeback after Hurricane Katrina, Clinton said.
Former president Barack Obama said the 2008 debate in New Orleans could've been a much-needed "economic boon" to the city and a reminder to the country "about the unmet promise to rebuild and restore the Gulf Coast."
Google and YouTube proposed a town hall-style forum at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with Obama and 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain, but that didn't happen.
New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation president Mark Romig says a presidential debate would likely attract international positive attention to the city, particularly with thousands of reporters and media covering the event.
Debates would likely begin after Labor Day, which typically is a busy time for New Orleans as it heads into festival season and conventions and groups descend on the city, but Romig doesn't believe a midweek debate would pose a challenge for room reservations.
The resolution appears on the City Council's Jan. 10 agenda.
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