The GOP stronghold of Mesa will host a Republican presidential debate to be aired on CNN.

The network chose the Mesa Arts Center for its state-of-the-art technology, Mayor Scott Smith said. The $98 million center opened in 2005.

“When CNN came out here, they were blown away by the venue,” Smith said.

Smith said CNN will begin broadcasting from Mesa the day after Thanksgiving, in advance of the Nov. 30 debate.

The Arizona Republican Party announced the choice Thursday. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said the debate will spotlight southwestern issues in the 2012 election.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Brewer said in a statement. “Arizona will play a key role in the coming election, and I’m looking forward to our voters getting an up-close look at our nation’s candidates for president.”

The venue was in competition with the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix and Gammage Auditorium at Arizona State University, which hosted a 2004 presidential debate.

“There’s no doubt we had a huge hurdle. We’re not Phoenix. We’re not Tempe,” Smith said. “We were persistent.”

Brewer and the Republican party made the final call after CNN toured the three and spoke so highly of the arts center, Mesa Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh said.

“My guess is that CNN indicated to them that it really met all their needs out of all the facilities they looked at,” he said.

The debate airs live at 6 p.m. Nov. 30. CNN will pick up the cost of using the arts center, Smith said. The city was determined to get the debate in part for the publicity, Smith said.

“Any time you have an event here, when the eyes of the nation are focused on you, it’s good,” he said. “We have a city we’re proud of and if we have an opportunity to show off our best, we’ll take that opportunity because we can demonstrate there are a lot of good things happening here in Arizona and especially in Mesa.”

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