Members of the Site Selection Committee for the 2016 Republic National Convention hold a news conference with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, second from left, after touring the Pepsi Center on June 10, 2014. The committee members, from left: Pete Coors, Enid Mickelsen and Reince Priebus. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

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Denver’s smashing success with the 2008 Democratic National Convention is a “big advantage” as officials seek to host the 2016 Republican gathering, GOP officials said Tuesday, and the state’s marijuana law won’t hurt its chances.

Those comments came during a wide-ranging news conference at the Pepsi Center after a two-hour tour for a Republican National Convention site-scouting delegation.

“It’s been exciting to see that Denver really does want to host another convention,” said Enid Mickelsen of Utah, the chairwoman of the 13-member Site Selection Committee.

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While other competitors have hosted political conventions, Denver is the only one to do so with post-9/11 security restrictions. It’s competing against Cleveland, Kansas City, Mo., and Dallas, where the Republican group heads Wednesday for the final site visit.

The party will decide on a host in coming months.

Tuesday brought a postcard-perfect morning on the only full day of the visit, perhaps giving Denver a momentary edge.

Mickelsen said several delegation members “cannot stop looking at the mountains.”

But during the media event on the Pepsi Center’s concrete floor — against the backdrop of the largest arena scoreboard screen in the country, displaying the Denver 2016 bid logo — she and National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus stressed that the decision is all about business.

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They also addressed fundraising, the toughest task for each city, and said Denver bid leaders — with nearly $11 million of private pledges so far — are doing fine. The host has to raise upwards of $60 million.

The GOP officials also discussed the impact of Colorado’s recent legalization of recreational pot.

“Well, I’m not a big fan of the law,” Priebus said, “but it hasn’t played a role in this decision.”

“I’m a Mormon Sunday school teacher from Draper, Utah,” Mickelsen said. “… However, it makes no difference to me as I’m looking at your facilities and your ability to put on a convention.”

Mayor Michael Hancock said Denver is aiming again for a community-friendly event, despite security hurdles.

“We’ll encourage the residents of this region to come down and enjoy the delegates and their families, just as we did in 2008, and make this a family affair in hosting our distinguished guests to our city,” said Hancock, a Democrat.

Earlier, before entering the Pepsi Center, one site committee member described what he was looking for in an event hall.

“We want to make sure it makes our candidate look the best of all the candidates,” said Jonathan Barnett of Arkansas, one of nine voting members. “We want to elect a president. We’re ready for a change.”

Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, or

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