Houston was selected yesterday to be the site of the 1992 Republican National Convention. The party's 10-member site selection committee chose the Texas city, which President Bush calls his home town, over New Orleans and San Diego.
The 165-member Republican National Committee (RNC) is expected to ratify the committee's recommendation when it meets in Washington Jan. 25.
"The committee conducted a very careful review of all aspects of the three bids, and though it was very close, it was clear that Houston offered the most complete package when you looked at the criteria from housing to convention facilities," RNC Co-chairman Jeanie Austin said.
RNC chief of staff Mary Matalin said: "Contrary to reports, the president did not have a preference. He told us to pick the city that would give us the best convention."
Houston, which was host to the Economic Summit last July, will make available the Astrodome for convention sessions Aug. 17-20, 1992. This will require the Houston Astros National League baseball team to take the longest road trip -- 26 days -- in its history to make way for the Republicans.
The Democrats' convention will be a month earlier in New York.
Site selection director Bill Harris estimated the value of services and equipment that Houston agreed to provide for the convention at $10 million.
Houston had lost its attraction for some GOP officials after the November election when Democrat Ann Richards defeated Republican Clayton Williams in the Texas governor's race. As keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Richards delivered a scathing attack on Bush.
Other officials worried about holding the convention in New Orleans, site of the 1988 GOP meeting, because of the political prominence in Louisiana of state Rep. David Duke (R), a former Ku Klux Klan leader.
White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu told reporters last month that he and other top administration officials had recommended San Diego to Bush. "I just felt that -- to be very blunt about it -- with the presidential race and two Senate races in California in 1992, there's a good reason for the Republican Party to be extremely visible during that period of time in California."
But political considerations aside, San Diego's facilities were inadequete. The final session, the night of the presidential nominee's acceptance speech, would have had to move to a larger site.
The various assets and liabilities of the three cities were discusssed at a meeting of the site selection committee Nov. 28 attended by Bush, Vice President Quayle, former RNC chairman-designate William J. Bennett, Sununu and other top GOP officials.
Bennett declared his opposition to Houston. "Why go to Ann Richards's state?" he asked at that meeting. After a stunned and awkward silence, according to a source who attended the meeting, Bush replied, "That's not a problem."