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There will be plenty of talk tonight from the Democratic presidential candidates on everything from health care to energy, but there has been little talk up to this point on the energy spent in getting those candidates to Philadelphia. It is the first time in more than three decades that the City of Brotherly Love has hosted a sanctioned presidential debate, and preparations have been going on behind the scenes for months. They will culminate with an evening of pre-debate events at the Cira Centre followed by a two-hour question and answer session at Drexel University led by NBC News Anchor Brian Williams. As with most things political in the city, local attorneys played their part in bringing the debate here, finding the location and – of course – fundraising. While one would be hard-pressed to find even a mention of the date of the debate on the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s Web site, attorneys have been doing some stomping of their own to raise awareness and dollars for the national committee. Mark Aronchick of Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin is the Pennsylvania finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He said the committee and its chairman, Howard Dean, were thinking about several options back in April when deciding where to hold the six sanctioned debates. At a meeting of several state party leaders in Washington, D.C., Aronchick threw Philadelphia into the ring as a possible contender, he said. “Pennsylvania has been very supportive of the DNC,” he said. “Governor Rendell is a giant figure politically in the country.” Talks slowly began to pick up pace, with Dean mentioning the possibility to Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Aronchick said. At an event in Pennsylvania for Aronchick and his wife, Dean was in attendance and the two pulled together a group of potential supporters to start building excitement. “To get from the idea stage to the implementation stage took a fair amount of work,” Aronchick said. He said Rendell and his staff were also in talks with the DNC to coordinate certain aspects of bringing the debate to the city. Rendell spokesman Chuck Ardo said there was no one in the governor’s office working specifically on coordinating the event. “As to whether the governor used his much renowned charm to attract the debate,” he said, “I wouldn’t know about that.” Once it was clear that the debate tour would make a stop in Philadelphia, the coordination really began. Aronchick said there were three things that needed to occur between April and today. The first was to find a location that would showcase the city and provide easy access to as many people as possible, he said. Those involved looked at several local universities and the National Constitution Center, but Aronchick said Drexel ultimately worked out to be the best choice. Stephen A. Sheller of Sheller P.C. is on the board of trustees at Drexel. When asked how the debate came to Philadelphia, he said, “It got there because Drexel was willing to host.” Sheller said he encouraged the school, along with others on the debate host committee, to hold the event. He said the venue is a great educational idea and a convenient location. Sheller is one of about 40 members of the host committee, the creation of which was second on Aronchick’s list of things to accomplish well before Oct. 30. He said it was a “very intensive effort” that incorporated the work of the DNC and local party members. The final group consists of people not just from the Philadelphia area but from the entire mid-Atlantic region, Aronchick said. The goal of the committee is to create awareness and raise money that will go toward Dean’s 50-state strategy, which provides added monetary support for Democratic campaigns across the country. Aronchick said the third thing on his list was accomplishing the logistics of pulling off such a large-scale debate, including coordinating the different campaign schedules and setting up pre-campaign events. Although they might not be too involved with the logistics, there are several members of the host committee that are also members of the bar. Dean asked Stuart Grant of Grant & Eisenhofer in Wilmington, Del., to serve on the host committee. “I assume Howard was the driving force behind all of this, and Rendell,” Grant said. While his state predictably votes Democratic, Grant said Pennsylvania is considered a must-win for the candidate who ultimately takes the presidency. Most, if not all, on the host committee have their personal favorites and have raised significant money for their candidates. That, however, all goes on hold for the debate, they said. Grant is a big supporter of Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, but has been focusing on party-wide fundraising these past few months. “I divorce those two things,” he said. “We’re all here as DNC members.” Aronchick is a big supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, but said he put that aside for this event. Sheller, who also supports Clinton, said he would be annoyed if any of the host committee members continued fundraising for individual candidates. “We’re not going to do anything to show favorites,” he said. Aside from Biden and Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former Senators John Edwards and Chris Dodd, and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich will be at the debate. Other members of the host committee include Leslie A. Miller, David Pudlin of Hangley Aronchick, Richard Schiffrin of Schiffrin Barroway Topaz & Kessler, Daniel Berger of Berger & Montague, Michael Lehr of Greenberg Traurig, Joseph Kohn of Kohn Swift & Graft, Gerald McHugh of Raynes McCarty, Mark Alderman and Alan Kessler of Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, Kenneth Jarin of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, and William Titelman of Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz. The debate starts at 9 p.m.

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