Author: Matthew Driscoll, PR Account Supervisor

Final Presidential Debate Brings Fireworks and Priceless Vegas Publicity

Oct. 19 saw one of the most important events ever to happen in Las Vegas. It wasn’t CES, Garth Brooks at the T-Mobile Center, or the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight − it was the final presidential debate of the 2016 election. Regardless of how each candidate was seen as performing, and regardless of who will win on Nov. 9, the event is already a success for Las Vegas, both the brand and the community many of us call home.


Las Vegas has never before been seen as a natural fit for this type of large political event. A U.S. president had never visited Las Vegas until 1935, when FDR opened the Hoover Dam. The area has been talked about as a host site for both the Republican and Democratic national conventions since at least the 1980s, but the city’s largest venue at the time, the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus, was considered not large enough.


That all has started to change recently. Las Vegas hosted primary debates for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Nevada’s battleground-state status and diversity of economics, ethnicity and geography make it a valuable bellwether campaign stop and an attractive venue for candidates. While presidents are no longer a rare sight in Las Vegas, the debate was a unique event. It’s also the first collaboration between a university and a destination marketing body to hold one of these events. The LVCVA and UNLV partnered together throughout the process to secure and produce the Las Vegas debate.debate3


Here are some key facts about the debate held on Oct. 19:

  • Two years prior to the event, potential host sites begin by getting their applications to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan body that organizes the general election debates. The criteria is incredibly strict and detailed, and the criteria for selection is 19 pages long.
  • 16 other communities applied for the privilege of hosting one of the three presidential and one vice presidential debates in 2016. Most of the debate sites have historically been universities.
  • Four host sites were chosen − The Wright State University in Ohio, Longwood University in Virginia, Washington University in Missouri, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Wright State pulled out of the debates in July 2016, and Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., was chosen as a replacement.
  • Two of the 2016 hosts had held presidential debates before. Hofstra has held three consecutive presidential debates since 2008. Washington University has hosted five different presidential and vice presidential debates.
  • $85 million worth of worldwide publicity for Las Vegas was generated by September 2016, with the final number still being tabulated and expected to peak at well over $100 million.
  • 5,000 journalists from around the world traveled to Las Vegas to cover the final presidential debate, most staying for almost a full week. This was double the expected figure.
  • Three TV networks, CNN, Bloomberg and MSNBC, broadcast from the UNLV campus in the days leading up to the debate.
  • 6 million TV viewers watched the evening’s debate, the third most watched TV debate of all time.

The general feeling among political pundits and local observers was that the debate was a resounding success, and that the publicity value for both the university and the destination is priceless. With many experts predicting that we will be the site of a future national political convention − its further proof to what those of us who understand Las Vegas already know. Whether it’s the world’s best tourist destination, the center of most industries’ leading business events, or one of the most vibrant political scenes in the country − Las Vegas is always the right place to be.

Pulling Back the Curtain on GPA, Its Victories and How It Helps Deliver for Our Clients

If you’re unfamiliar with the acronym “GPA,” you’re not alone. While its scope is one of the largest at R&R Partners, with nine different offices in six states and in Washington, D.C., the government and public affairs (GPA) department is probably the least familiar to our fellow employees, let alone the people and communities we serve.

Our most common activity is building relationships and speaking directly with elected officials and key community leaders at every level on behalf of our clients. Unlike many firms, R&R has clients of just about every size, industry and need. Here in Nevada, we routinely work with city council members, mayors, county commissioners, federal and state legislators, and governors on issues big and small. Our clients include well-known names like Microsoft, Herbalife, the Cleveland Clinic and American Medical Response. All have tremendous impact on our communities.

But access to decision makers is an increasingly small part of success in this arena. Modern political “lobbying” and relationship building is a far cry from the smoke-filled rooms of a century ago. Today, our best weapon is education. Term limits, a high-intensity news cycle and a younger generation of politicians means we need to know our issues like energy, the environment and economic development better than anyone. This expertise is put to use persuading decision makers to adopt the best policies possible.

So now that you’re more familiar with what we do, you may be wondering what success looks like in GPA. Here are some examples of recent successes here at R&R:

Competing against nearly every other state, many with highly successful economic development programs, our Nevada GPA team helped broker a deal to locate Faraday Future’s (billion-dollar electric car company) first U.S. factory here in Southern Nevada. This project alone could bring 4,500 new jobs to the area.

Our Denver GPA team helped create an innovative program that will be a model for Colorado School Districts. Colorado State University will locate a new administration building on property owned by the Aurora Public Schools. Instead of a traditional lease, this program will allow CSU to pay the school system in tuition credits, allowing the Aurora superintendent to provide four-year scholarships to potentially 200 public school students. Many of these students will be the first in their families to attend college and otherwise be without the means to afford higher education.

More than 60,000 refugees currently reside in Salt Lake County. This extraordinary demographic transformation provided an opportunity for our Utah GPA team to work with our client, the Partnership for a New American Economy, to engage local leaders and community members to build a more welcoming community that helps maximize the contributions of these new Americans.

In Nevada, our GPA team also authored and fought to pass landmark anti-bullying in schools legislation, helping protect the most vulnerable among us. The amount of money we helped get dedicated toward the general fund for anti-bullying efforts – specifically, in creating the Office of Safe and Respectful Learning within the Nevada Department of Education – helped secure $16 million in funding for schools to contract with social workers to address the problem. Officials say the program will be in 140 schools in the first year and 280 in the second year.

While often the least publicized successes of our agency, the work of our GPA team often has the most direct and widespread impact on many of our lives, and that’s a very visible thing in the communities in which we work, learn and live our lives.