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Refuses to Share Convention Site : GOP Favors New Orleans--if City Bars Democrats

January 21, 1987|ROBERT SHOGAN | Times Political Writer

WASHINGTON — A Republican Party committee Tuesday recommended New Orleans as the site for the 1988 GOP National Convention--under terms that would prohibit the Democratic nominating convention from meeting in that city.

The full Republican National Committee is expected to approve the recommendation Friday.

In a press conference convened here coincidentally as the Democratic Party site selection committee was touring New Orleans, Republican National Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr. said that the contract between New Orleans and the GOP specifically prohibits the city from being host to the Democrats, too.

Democrats Interested

Before the Republicans made their announcement, Nathan Landow, chairman of the Democratic panel, told the Associated Press that New Orleans "seems to fit our needs nicely." The city, one of six under consideration by the Democrats, was said by party sources to rank high as a potential choice in part because it is in the South, a region where the Democrats desperately want to make up for ground lost in the last 20 years.

Fahrenkopf said that the Republicans required New Orleans to agree to reject any offer from the Democrats in part because the Democratic convention is scheduled to close less than four weeks before the Republican convention opens on Aug. 15. The Republicans have insisted that they need at least six weeks of unrestricted access to the convention hall before their convention begins, and this was the main reason given last December for the rejection of Los Angeles' bid for the GOP convention.

Two May Be Too Many

In addition, Fahrenkopf said, some members of the Republican site selection committee were concerned that the GOP might suffer from a decline in enthusiasm by the host city if the Republicans were the second national convention in New Orleans in a month.

New Orleans was one of three cities, the others being Atlanta and Kansas City, chosen as finalists by the GOP site selection committee. Atlanta was eliminated, Fahrenkopf said, because it could not meet the GOP's need for 15,000 seats in the convention hall. New Orleans was favored over Kansas City, according to Fahrenkopf, because of abundant hotel space near the Superdome, where the Republicans will meet, and because the immense arena would give the GOP extra seating and extra flexibility in planning the convention.

In New Orleans, Democratic National Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. scoffed at the claim by Republicans that they need a long period of uninterrupted access to the Superdome. "All they have to do is take down the donkey and put up the elephant," he said. But he added that any lifting of the ban on the Democrats would have to be negotiated between the GOP and New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy.

"It's unreasonable for the Republicans not to allow the city to have a chance to bid for the convention and its economic benefits at a time when the city faces serious economic problems," said Kirk's spokesman, Terry Michael, referring to the slump in the Louisiana economy as a result of the drop in energy prices.

Recalls Aid to GOP

Michael said that in 1972--after the Republicans changed their initial plan to meet in San Diego--Democrats helped them gain permission from Miami city officials to switch their convention to that city, which was also the site of the Democratic convention that year.

But, unless the Republicans relent, city officials indicated that they will accept the restriction against the Democrats. After pointing out that the Democrats will not decide on their choice of a convention site until next month, Jinx Broussard, Barthelemy's press secretary, said: "It would be ludicrous to back out of something definite when we don't have anything else."

Other cities under consideration by the Democrats for the July 18-21 convention are Washington, New York, Kansas City, Atlanta and Houston. They will announce their choice on Feb. 10.

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