Burlington County may not technically be part of Philadelphia, but local officials said it still has plenty of reasons to cheer its western neighbor’s selection as host of next year’s Democratic National Convention.
The county’s proximity to the City of Brotherly Love likely will mean its hotels, restaurants and other businesses will get a large share of the millions of dollars in economic benefits the political showcase is expected to generate.
Some officials predicted that the county’s hotels likely would be called upon to host some of the state delegations and parties, since host cities typically require support from surrounding suburbs to handle the large gatherings.
“I’m thrilled that the DNC has selected Philadelphia for the 2016 convention,” Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard said Thursday after the Democratic National Committee announced its choice. “It’s a great opportunity to highlight the region, including Burlington County, and there is already quite a buzz about it amongst our local Democrats.”
New Jersey Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, also cheered the selection.
“As the birthplace of our nation’s democracy, I can think of no greater place for our party to select its next presidential nominee than the city of Philadelphia,” Singleton said. “This selection will not only be a feather in Philadelphia’s cap, but will allow our county to also benefit economically by the choice.”
In 2000, when Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention, three hotels in Mount Laurel hosted state delegations, and several others in the area were booked with spectators and journalists.
There also were events and parties throughout the region.
Willingboro Democrat Lavonne Bebler Johnson remembered the hoopla the GOP convention caused. She said it’s now the Democrats’ turn, and she expects the events will help energize and engage many local party members.
“We were all annoyed in 2000 when the Republicans were there, but we’ll be happier this time. Now it’s our time to shine,” Bebler Johnson said.
It may also be the county party’s time to help out, as scores of volunteers likely will be needed to assist with events at the Wells Fargo Center, which is expected to serve as the city’s convention hall, or other events staged throughout the city and region.
“I expect (the Democratic National Committee) will call on New Jersey and South Jersey in particular to play a big part in hosting events and making sure all the delegates have a good time,” said Bebler Johnson, a volunteer at the Democrats’ 2008 convention in Denver. “I presume there may be some bigger roles for all of us this time around, which is exciting.”
Other party leaders in the area hailed the city’s selection, predicting its great history and beauty will be a fantastic backdrop.
“Our party’s strength is built on its diversity — and the many different ideas, beliefs and backgrounds that make our country can be found right here in our region,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st of Camden, adding that the economic benefits would be enormous and would spread well beyond the city into South Jersey.
“Thousands of patrons will cross the Delaware River to stay in our hotels, shop, eat and tour the area,” Norcross said. “While the convention is just a couple days long, the months leading up to it will require significant work and planning. All of this can be expected to inject millions of dollars into our local economy. Our region’s great accommodations and top workforce make this a natural choice. So I congratulate Philadelphia on its successful bid and look forward to joining my colleagues to welcome the convention-goers.”