HARTFORD — The last time Hartford hosted a presidential debate was in 1996, but the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is hoping a $1 million commitment will boost Hartford’s chances to become a 2020 debate site.
The foundation committed $1 million to the local organizing committee that is looking to secure one of the presidential debates for Hartford.
The city is already among six finalists to host one of the four presidential and vice presidential debates in October 2020.
The other cities include Nashville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., Ann Arbor, Mich., Notre Dame, Ind., and Salt Lake City, Utah.
If Hartford is selected, the city and the region will benefit from the national and international media attention, according to the foundation.
“We believe that our financial resources and community leadership can maximize this critical moment to model truly inclusive and respectful civic education and engagement around the issues and challenges that will be front and center of the 2020 presidential campaign,” Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams said.
The decision to commit the funds came after a rigorous and deliberative process, according to the foundation.
“This is an important step for the Hartford Foundation and philanthropy as an industry to lead an effort as vital as a Presidential Debate,” Hartford Foundation Board Chair JoAnn Price said.Max Reiss, a spokesman for Gov. Ned Lamont, said the governor is “excited to see community partners like the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving support such an incredible opportunity for our capital city and for the state. Connecticut has played a role in debates in the past and would love the chance to showcase Hartford and Connecticut more broadly on a national stage.”
“I’d love it. I think this is the perfect place to do it, we would welcome the candidates here,” Lamont said Tuesday. “It would be an opportunity for us to showcase our capital city and all the good things that are happening here and a good piece of education in civil service for people.”
Lamont added that he did not attend the Clinton-Dole debate in Hartford in 1996. “I wish I had.”
Connecticut’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation also wrote a letter in April to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking them to choose Hartford as the location.
The delegation led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Hartford has the “experience, expertise, and location to host a debate.”
The delegation said Connecticut, “the Constitution State, and Hartford, home of the Fundamental Orders, one of the first written documents of individual rights and a democratic form of government, is a highly appropriate and timely location.”
The debates are produced by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates , which is 501(c)(3) corporation created to ensure that general election debates among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process. CPD is not controlled by any political party or outside organization and it does not endorse, support, or oppose political candidates.
In 1996, the debate between then-President Bill Clinton and Republican Bob Dole was held at The Bushnell.
It’s unclear what venue they might use in Hartford if it’s chosen again to host one of the debates.
The local organizing committee, according to the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving, would include a chairperson, Hartford’s mayor, and top funders. Williams would serve as chair of the executive committee.