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DNC Even-Handed In Housing Assignments… Republican Conventioneers Get Their Hotel List

DNC Even-Handed In Housing Assignments


By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff

December 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003
Globe Newspaper Company. All rights reserved.

When delegates from the great state of Texas, home to President Bush, arrive for next summer's Democratic National Convention, they won't be staying at any swanky downtown hotel. They'll be at the Hilton Logan Airport. And while big cheese delegations like New York and California are settling into digs around Back Bay, Montana's will be bedding down in Northeastern University dormitories.

''We're a small delegation. We're from the West. We're used to camping out,'' said Bob Ream, the chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, which requested the dorms for economic reasons. ''In fact, I thought I'd pitch a tent on the Boston Common.''

Convention hotel assignments are a time-honored way of signaling delegations' place in the pecking order. But this year's Democratic convention organizers, who released the long-awaited list yesterday, announced proudly that everyone will stay within 3 1/2 miles of the FleetCenter. That's an improvement, they say, from the Democratic shindig in Los Angeles four years ago, when some delegates were stuck 17.6 miles from the convention site.

Despite the hand-wringing about Boston's hotel space during the mammoth political event and fears that some delegates might wind up toting their luggage past Interstate 495, it turns out there's a fair degree of parity in the state delegations' hotel assignments. No one's staying at the Ritz; nobody's at the Motel 6 in Danvers, either.

And most states, organizers say, were awarded their first-, second-, or third-choice hotels.

Still, not everyone had equal claim to happiness yesterday. Let's put it this way: The Massachusetts delegation got its first choice, the Fairmont Copley Plaza. The airport Hilton was nowhere on Texas's list.

Convention leaders insist that politics played no part in the decisions. Assignments were based largely on the size of delegations, said Lina Garcia, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention. And the Texas contingent, she said -- well, it's big.

The airport Hilton ''was the only hotel that we could give them without bumping four or five other delegations,'' she said.

For the Montana delegation, the Northeastern dorm rooms have some selling points. Members won't be near the students, said university spokesman Ed Klotzbier; they'll be at the university's new apartment-style residences at Davenport Commons and West Village, equipped with kitchens, close to the Museum of Fine Arts, and, if delegates take the Orange Line, a direct route by T to the FleetCenter. They're also priced considerably below market, compared to many big hotels: $80 for a one-person unit, $230 for a four-person unit. And since delegates have to pay their own way, cost was a giant factor, Ream said.There were still some haves and have-nots, as accommodations go. Massachusetts, California, and Florida are near the chichi shopping hub of Copley Square. Pennsylvania, a key swing state, drew the Omni Parker House, a half-mile from the convention site. New York is a short distance away at the Park Plaza. Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, which requested to be placed together, aren't far. But their hotel, the Radisson Boston, is a little farther from the Freedom Trail, a little closer to the former Combat Zone.

Some of the more unusual assignments, Garcia said, came at delegations' requests. The group from Puerto Rico planned on hosting private parties, she said, and wanted a hotel far from most delegates ''so that they wouldn't disturb the others.'' They're at the Inn at Harvard Square, and you're probably not invited.

Money will probably be less of an object for the party's nominee, whose hotel assignment has yet to be made. Rest assured, Garcia said: This one will be big, given demands for staff and Secret Service.

The location probably won't be shabby, either. If anyone else is unhappy with his or her lot -- or too weak, after a long day of hobnobbing, to trek back to Cambridge or through the Callahan Tunnel -- there's always the state Republican Party headquarters. It's two blocks from the FleetCenter on Merrimack Street. And executive director Dominick Ianno hasn't ruled out making a deal.

''Our office is closer to the FleetCenter than any of their hotels,'' he said. ''We might rent out an office or two. We'll put up cots.''

Republican Conventioneers Get Their Hotel List


February 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

Once every four years, Betsy Werronen is reminded what an afterthought she is. It's not personal, but as Republican Party chairwoman for the District of Columbia, where just about 8 percent of registered voters are Republican, she does not carry the clout of, say, a party leader from Texas.

So when it comes time for the party's national nominating convention, she and her fellow D.C. delegates are lucky if they get a clean room somewhere near the hall. Four years ago, in Philadelphia, the district's delegation got a decidedly middlebrow Best Western.

But when national party officials handed out hotel assignments on Friday, Ms. Werronen was given the Algonquin, a hotel that may not be among New York's most luxurious, but is certainly among its most historic.

"I think they are trying to make up for past sins," Ms. Werronen said of the convention planners, with a laugh. "D.C. has not in the past fared too well. Let me tell you, compared to the Best Western, it will really be a treat."

The Republican National Committee's annual winter meeting in Washington is a chance to rally the troops for the coming political year, update them on the party's plans for the convention and give out hotel assignments. The convention, scheduled for Aug. 30 through Sept. 2 at Madison Square Garden, is technically about nominating George W. Bush to seek a second term as president. Practically, though, it's about partying, and central to that are hotel assignments.

"It's always the most anticipated moment of the winter meeting,'' said Alan Novak, state chairman from Pennsylvania. "Every state wants to know where they are staying."

Mr. Novak and his delegation landed in the Hilton New York along with Florida and Texas. Convention organizers said accommodations were assigned based on criteria like the size of the delegation. But as Ms. Werronen's experiences suggest, the decision may well be based on even more practical matters, like which states are crucial come the general election.

Or maybe it's just about putting parties with similar culinary tastes together.

"It is going to be the best hotel to have a good time," Mr. Novak said of the Hilton near Rockefeller Center. "We'll find some way to get some good barbecue into the hotel."

It was actually the Committee on Arrangements that decided who got to stay where. And like other aspects of the convention planning, the list of hotels was treated as a closely guarded secret right until about 4:30 p.m. Friday, when everyone found out at once.

So who gets the prime locations?

California, and presumably its new governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be staying at the New York Marriott Marquis, one of the largest hotels in the city, with nearly 2,000 rooms. It also has its lobby on the eighth floor, a throwback to a time when the hotel was doing whatever it could to keep its guests far away from the tawdriness of Times Square, according to a spokeswoman for the hotel. Mr. Schwarzenegger may like to know that the hotel recently spent $3.5 million to build a new physical fitness center (which is free to hotel guests).

Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Utah and Delaware have been put in the Millenium Hilton, which may be a bit of a hike from the convention center at Madison Square Garden, but will offer its guests an unrivaled view of ground zero. The Republicans have gone to great lengths to insist they are not coming to New York for the first time in the party's history to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11. And a party spokeswoman became nervous when it was pointed out that 90 percent of the rooms in the hotel offer a view of the site.

Then, of course, there is Washington, D.C., in the Algonquin. At 59 West 44th Street, "The Gonk," as it was once fondly called, was where writers and critics, or, as a plaque in the hotel says, "the century's literary luminaries," met for lunch from 1919 to 1929 in a group that became known as the Round Table. If ever there were the possibility of a culture clash between the host city and its guests, this quirky hotel once might have been the front line.

But the hotel, which has been long on business travelers and a bit short on luminaries in recent days, is as excited about the D.C. delegates as they are about the hotel. And there are aspects of the Algonquin that might actually make some of the visitors feel right at home. "A liberal is a man who leaves the room when a fight starts," said Dorothy Parker, the writer and poet, in a quotation that has been immortalized on a hotel room door.

But then on a second door, there is another snarky quotation from Mrs. Parker that Republicans might, perhaps, not feel too warmly about: "How can you tell?" she asked, on hearing that former President Calvin Coolidge, a Republican, was dead.

Jess Wisloski contributed reporting for this article.

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