Answer: San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson
It’s not often that a Mayor declares himself “delighted” to lose the chance of hosting his party’s convention. But that’s what happened when San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson made a spirited appearance on Meet the Press in 1973. Wilson was on the program with five other mayors live from the United States Conference of Mayors in San Francisco. Though the mayors were there to discuss the Conference’s current issues, the Meet the Press panel made sure Wilson addressed the painful memory of the Republican Convention of 1972, which had taken place the year after he came into office. In May of 1972, in the midst of Richard Nixon’s reelection fight against George McGovern, the Republican National Committee had made an abrupt and surprising decision: to move its Convention from San Diego to Miami, only three months before the event was due to take place. The Committee claimed it could not complete Convention preparations with the facilities in San Diego. But the prevailing rumor in the press at the time was that the blame lay with a brewing scandal involving the International Telephone and Telegraph company, or ITT. The US Justice Department had reached an anti-trust settlement with ITT just before the RNC chose San Diego, where a subsidiary of ITT pledged a large amount of financial support for the Convention. A memo leaked in the run-up to the Convention implied a less than ethical link between the two events. There were also rumors of plans for large student protests against Nixon in San Diego, and many believed that the Nixon White House, spooked from the bad press, intervened to switch the Convention to Miami. On Meet the Press, William Anderson of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Mayor Wilson for the real reasons behind the Convention leaving San Diego. Wilson, clearly still resentful of the National Committee’s blaming San Diego, took a shot at Nixon, referencing Watergate and the White House’s fear: “In the light of some of the testimony that has come from the Watergate hearings, it now would appear that there was some concern on the part of those charged with the conduct of the campaign that the Convention itself would be disrupted in San Diego.”
After the Convention left his city, Wilson had made a landmark effort to bolster the San Diego’s spirits and image, including a public campaign branding it “America’s Finest City.” He remained defiant of the national Republican Party on Meet the Press, saying of the Convention: “I don’t think that we have suffered in the least…I was delighted to see it go.” You can watch more of Pete Wilson’s 1973 Meet the Press interview about the Republican Convention in the clip below. And stay tuned for Meet the Press’ coverage from the Republican National Convention in Tampa this Sunday.