Conservative religious groups are pressuring Republican leaders to cross "decadent" Las Vegas off its list of potential host cities for the 2016 GOP convention.
They say that Nevada’s so-called "Sin City" — with its abundance of escort services and gambling casinos — flies in the face of the true conservative values of the Republican Party, according to The Dallas Morning News
The city’s main convention rival, Dallas, has recently pitched itself as a wholesome family-oriented alternative to Las Vegas, famous for the catchphrase, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
Some leaders of the religious right sent a letter last week to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, urging him to pick a venue which would not harm the GOP’s image and is "not at odds with its values."
The conservative leaders who have joined the fight are Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association; Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum; Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition; Paul Caprio, director of Family-PA; and James Dobson, president of Family Talk ministry.
"In spite of 'family-friendly' outreach in the past decade, Las Vegas remains a metaphor for all things decadent," the letter said. "And looking at the yellow pages, one can see that it still delivers. With 64 pages of escort services and countless gambling casinos, it remains a trap waiting to ensnare."
The religious conservatives said they were not endorsing a specific convention site. "But we urge you to reject Las Vegas and celebrate the vibrancy and strength of the Republican Party in a place not at odds with its values."
The Las Vegas committee hoping to draw the GOP to the desert city recently made a promotional pitch for the convention, extolling the virtues of its 150,000 hotel rooms, 50 golf courses and more than 500 places of worship.
Family Talk’s Dobson told the Morning News, "The GOP is supposedly interested in reaching out to conservatives and evangelicals. Maybe that’s just a front, but if they really mean it this is not the way to do it."
According to the Morning News, last week the RNC eliminated Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, from its list of potential convention sites, leaving Dallas, Las Vegas, Denver, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Kansas City, Mo., still in the running.
Las Vegas and Dallas are leading the field because they have hotels close enough to each other to avoid traffic tie-ups and they can both raise $50 million for the project in a short amount of time. The two issues caused a problem for the 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla., according to the Morning News.
Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau, said that despite the wonderful hotels, Las Vegas’ reputation as a party town may hinder its chances of getting the convention.
"That’s their challenge, and they’ll have to figure out how to address it," he told the Morning News. "That’s not a challenge for us at all. The Dallas message…free-market capitalism, entrepreneurial spirit, optimism, opportunity, low taxes, low regulation…fits very well with the Republicans’ brand."
However, Jack St. Martin, executive director of the Las Vegas 2016 host committee, told the newspaper that the city "offers the Republican Party and the conservative cause the best opportunity in a generation to house, train, educate, motivate and activate the grass-roots volunteers that make up the foundation of the GOP."
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