RNC Host Committee chair steers clear of party politics
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07/15/11 Kate Bradshaw
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RNC Host Committee Chair Ken Jones


photo by Kate Bradshaw, WMNF

Tampa Bay is more than a year out from the Republican National Convention, but it’s on the minds of many locals in a big way these days. the head of the RNC host committee fielded questions about the event at a Tiger Bay Club event in Tampa, and tried to keep the politics out of it.

RNC Host Committee Chair Ken Jones said next year’s Republican National Convention will one of the biggest media events in the world – second only to the Olympics.

At a Tiger Bay Club of Tampa meeting, Jones shied away from talking politics and stressed the convention’s economic development potential. He said scoring points for whomever challenges President Obama next year is not the Host Committee’s job.

Another thing that’s not his job? Security. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently went to the feds to ask for $55 million, and so did the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, host city for next year’s Democratic National Convention. Jones said that money goes to the mayor’s office. Tiger Bay Club member April Schiff, a Republican activist, wondered what the source of those dollars was.

He said Pam Iorio, who was mayor at the time Tampa bid for the convention, made the RNC host committee promise not to use any city money on the event, but that federal money wasn’t included in that promise. He said the extensive security detail requested for the event comes from a post-nine-eleven policy.

USF lobbyist Kathy Betancourt, often overheard criticizing Republican policies, asked how well that use of public money will go over with the tea party base the GOP has been relatively successful at courting.

Jones said the host committee isn’t concerned with party politics.

Tiger Bay Club member Peter Hughes asked how the host committee has been planning to deal with what will likely be thousands of protesters.

Jones said he’s not at liberty to say yet, but it’s less about protesters practicing their first amendment rights than it is about preventing violence.

The RNC starts on August 27th of next year and goes on for four days. The last nominating conventions to take place in Florida were in 1972, when Miami Beach both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

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