Cleveland’s selection as host for the 2016 Republican national convention has Columbus hoping that Ohio fever spreads.
The city hopes that the same logic that spurred the Republican National Committee to pick Cleveland — swing-state politics, a thriving economy — causes the Democrats to pick Columbus over four other cities to host the 2016 Democratic national convention.
By picking Columbus, leaders argue, the Democrats could negate any swing-state momentum spurred by the influx of Republicans into northern Ohio.
On a more obvious front, Cleveland, which was also vying to host the Democratic convention, is essentially eliminated from the running because it was tapped by the RNC. The Democratic National Committee has an exclusivity clause which would bar a city from hosting both conventions once a contract is signed. The Republicans’ contract with Cleveland is now in negotiations.
“I do hope it helps Columbus’ chances to get the (Democratic convention,” said Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who said his efforts to help land the Republican convention in Cleveland have now shifted to getting the Democratic convention in Columbus.
Republicans are optimistic, too. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Colemanshould argue that picking Columbus for the Democratic convention could mitigate any advantage that picking Cleveland gave to the Republicans. “Columbus is in a uniquely good position, particularly with Coleman advocating on the Democratic side,” he said.
A technical advisory committee to the Democratic National Committee will visit Columbus in early August, and visit the other cities between late July and early September. Birmingham, Ala., Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Phoenix are also wooing Democrats. A final decision could come in late 2014 or early 2015.
If Columbus is selected, it would be the first time one state has held both parties’ conventions since 1972, when the Republicans and Democrats gathered in Miami. Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Robert T. Bennett recalled that it didn’t go smoothly, and the parties shied away from hosting in the same city, with the Democrats creating an exclusivity clause.
But such a clause doesn’t bar two cities in the same state from hosting.
“We’re going to make history,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “I feel good about Columbus’ chances.”
One question will be whether the state can raise the money to host two conventions. Cleveland must raise $60 million for its GOP convention, and Democrats are also asking for a healthy sum to host.
While Cleveland companies such as Eaton, Sherwin-Williams and KeyBank aggressively pursued the GOP convention, there are some business officials in central Ohio who worry that an all-out effort to win the Democratic convention could come at the expense of other vital projects.
But those in the business community insist that Columbus is in it to win it. The city also put in a bid for the Republican convention but was eliminated early in the process.
“I can tell you I never go off doing things like I am doing for both conventions if my membership wasn’t supportive, and that usually includes our entire membership and starts with our executive committee,” said Alex Fischer, president and chief executive officer of the Columbus Partnership, which represents most of the major companies in central Ohio.
Brown said he does not think raising the money would be a problem, because Columbus and Cleveland both have thriving business communities. JobsOhio, Kasich’s privatized development agency, has pledged up to $10 million for each of the conventions.
“I would think Gov. Kasich would want the Democratic convention in Columbus as much as I want the Republican convention in Cleveland,” he said. “Which is a lot.”
By Jessica Wehrman - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief Jack Torry and Reporter Catherine Candisky contributed to this story.
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