Metro Nashville Council to consider contract with Republican National Committee

Move to host 2024 GOP convention gets bipartisan support

The Metro Nashville Council will hold its first reading on a bill to approve a contract with the Republican National Committee for Nashville to host the 2024 Republican National Convention.

First reading of the ordinance, sponsored by Councilman Robert Swope, who served as state director for former President Donald Trump's campaign in 2016, is set for July 5.

The legislation is another step closer to sealing the deal that would bring thousands of people to Nashville to support the Republican Party, but a bipartisan committee has been meeting for months to discuss recruiting the Democratic National Committee's 2024 convention as well.

Saturday afternoon, Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Hendrell Remus and Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden released a joint statement.

"Though our parties are deeply divided on many issues of the day, we are fully aligned in the belief that our two-party system of democracy is the best form of government in the history of civilization. We both fully embrace the opportunity for Nashville to host the 2024 Republican National Convention and are committed to an effort to recruit the Democrat (sic) National Convention in 2028, since it has closed its bidding process for 2024 with a list of cities that were hand selected by the DNC," the chairmen said in the statement.

Almost immediately, local officials weighed in.

Metro Council member At-Large Bob Mendes voiced his concern about the potential for violence at a national political convention.

"My focus is that since the 1968 convention, this is the highest risk of violence with the convention since the '60s. With planned coordinated white supremacists showing up, the overall tenor of the country - even if we get repaid for all expenses, why would we invite that into our front yard?" Mendes said.

"Part of the pitch from the state is that we'll help you get the Democratic National Committee convention," Mendes said. "First, the DNC is not coming here. Second, why would we want it? All our metro departments have plenty to do and don't need the extra work. It's a huge security risk."

Remus told the Tennessee Lookout he has for months been in favor of bringing both conventions here, saying it gives residents the opportunity to be civically involved.

"I've been crystal clear that the effort has to be 100% to get both conventions," he said. Bringing the RNC to Nashville gives the Tennessee Democratic Party "the opportunity to bring opposition dollars into the state to push back," Remus added, noting a "competitive 2024 Senate race with Marsha Blackburn."

Remus also noted the Democratic National Committee sent requests for proposals to host the 2024 convention to 20 cities. While he didn't make clear which Tennessee cities may have been on the list, he noted only four cities - none in Tennessee - responded.

Members of the Davidson County legislative delegation also weighed in, with Rep. Bob Freeman taking a measured approach.

"I think it's a great idea to have a both conventions in Nashville. The effort is to have both conventions in Nashville," Freeman said. "I'm a giant fan of anything we can do to showcase Nashville to people who otherwise wouldn't have seen it.

"I think we need to be more open and accepting. Maybe (having the RNC) turns the tide - maybe people see it and go 'I think I'm a Republican but I'm not a white nationalist,'" Freeman added.

"I think it's a good opportunity to highlight to how far the GOP is from the average Tennessean," he said.

Freeman's fellow caucus member, Rep. John Ray Clemmons, was not as optimistic.

"I strongly disagree with the state party and any member of my caucus who supports hosting the RNC in Nashville. Frankly, I think they're off their rocker," Clemmons said in a statement. "Remember, this isn't the Republican Party of yesteryear that would have been an honor to host The Republican Party of today is one fueled by voter suppression and discrimination and is run by people who still claim the current president is illegitimate and that Jan. 6 was a 'peaceful protest.'"

Several members of the bipartisan coalition created to attract both conventions released a statement of support as well. That group included former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; former Gov. Bill Haslam; former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Doug Horne; Robert Davidson, treasurer to U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper; and Calvin Anderson, a former executive with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

"Hosting either party's national convention in a civil, respectful way would be just another example of Nashville's ability to shine on the national stage. Politics aside, these are high profile, sought-after events that will showcase the city at its best. We hope due consideration is given to pursuing both parties' conventions in 2024 and 2028" their statement said.

The contract Metro Council is being asked to consider is dated Aug. 5, the date of the third reading for the legislation supporting it - if the legislation makes it to a third reading. Defeat on first reading makes legislation dead, but bills can also fail at any of the three readings.

The contract sets terms for the goods and service Nashville will provide for the convention, including "essential metro services," defined as "services provided in the ordinary course of business by Metro or its affiliates, including, but not limited to, police, fire, emergency medical services, traffic control, trash removal and sanitation, on a scale necessary to host the convention."

The convention's host committee commits to raising money to cover all convention costs and agrees to "use best efforts" to reimburse Nashville in the amount of $1 million as well as providing a $5 million letter of credit to guarantee the host committee's obligations.