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2012 Hofstra debate may be boon to Nassau

Hofstra University hosted a debate between U.S. presidential

Hofstra University hosted a debate between U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in October 2008. (Oct. 15, 2008) Photo Credit: Newsday File Photo / Kathy Kmonicek

Nassau County restaurants, bars and hotels, all feeling the pain of a down economy, say they could see a short-term revenue boost next year as Hofstra University once again plays host to a presidential debate, business groups and analysts say.

A road crew of political strategists and national media is expected to appear for the debate at Hofstra on Oct. 16, 2012, the second of three presidential debates next year. Hofstra also hosted a presidential debate in 2008.

The out-of-towners, some of whom will arrive days and weeks in advance, will eat at Nassau restaurants, stay in local hotels and spend money in area shops, said E. Christopher Murray, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce.

"It doesn't matter if you are a Republican or Democrat," Murray said. "The more activity that it can generate for Nassau County and for all of Long Island is very beneficial."

As additional money is injected into the local economy, it creates a "multiplier effect," adding disposable revenue to Nassau business owners and employees, said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group.

Cash-strapped Nassau County, which is facing a projected $310 million deficit for 2012, could also see an uptick in sales and hotel taxes from the debate.

"The presidential debate promotes the many attributes of Nassau County, while generating thousands of dollars in much-needed revenue for local businesses, hotels and retail stores," said County Executive Edward Mangano.

Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz said the event could have "transformative" benefits for the local economy.

"While there are some immediate economic benefits to hosting a presidential debate, you can't measure impact in the short term," he said. "The true impact of such an event is in how it showcases Long Island and builds its reputation as a place with the resources and the spirit necessary to make big things happen."

Roughly 1,000 people, including some 300 Hofstra students, filled seats at Hofstra's David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex for the 2008 debate.

An additional 3,000 members of the media obtained credentials, while many more traveled with the campaigns of Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. Concerts, celebrity luncheons and anti-war protests were all built around the event.

It's unclear how many seats will be made available for the 2012 debate, which will be held in a "town meeting" format.

The event's sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, did not return calls for comment.

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