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Updated Feb 27, 2014 - 5:59 pm

Arizona GOP: Bill won't hurt 2016 convention bid

PHOENIX -- State legislation that would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gays for religious reasons likely won't impact Phoenix's chances of hosting the 2016 national convention, Arizona Republican Party officials said Thursday.

The Republican National Committee's focus in evaluating potential sites is on venues, transportation and security, Arizona GOP Chairman Robert Graham said.

``If anything, they want to have a fantastic venue and a city that has transportation and resources to support the venue.'' He said. ``Phoenix is most definitely capable of doing that.''

Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed Senate Bill 1062, which sparked a nationwide furor and evoked calls for businesses to boycott Arizona. Despite being nixed, the legislation and its effect on the state's image is still a hot topic of conversation. Complaints that the legislation basically legalized discrimination against gays and lesbians contrasts with recent efforts by Republicans to be more inclusive.

Graham and other representatives for the Arizona GOP, including former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, and Phoenix will present their bid to the RNC selection committee Monday in Washington, D.C.

Phoenix Councilman Bill Gates is among those heading to Washington. Gates, a Republican, voted in favor Tuesday of a council resolution asking Brewer to veto the bill. Even the fact that lawmakers approved such legislation won't cause irreparable damage to the state's image, he said.

``I think that people understand that what matters is the overall record of a state and we have a great record. We have a very diverse state. That's what people are going to look at, not at any individual one vote,'' Gates said.

Phoenix is one of eight cities party leaders are considering. Other cities in the running include Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Mo., and three in Ohio- Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The chosen city will be announced this fall.

If Phoenix wins hosting duties, the state GOP will have to raise $55 million through private and corporate donations, according to Graham. But the city would also invest some funds. Graham believes the city could see anywhere from $600 million to a half-billion dollars in spending.

``This is one of those opportunities that touches everybody- corporations, waiters, servers,'' he said. ``Given the venue, the opportunity, our capacity, the predictable weather, there's not much that would derail a successful event.''

GOP officials expect to hold their convention in the early summer of 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm and at a time when Phoenix's usually sweltering summers are in full swing. Republicans plan to begin visiting potential sites later in the spring and will make their final pick by this fall.

In general, the RNC's site-selection committee looks at how much hotel and convention space a city can offer and how it would handle security and transportation, RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. He declined to comment on how much weight, if any, would be given to the political climate in Phoenix.

``To speculate on a specific city before they come in and make their bids, I don't think that's fair to the other cities,'' he said.

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Follow Terry Tang at http://twitter.com/ttangAP

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