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Cleveland vies with Dallas for GOP convention

Published: 6/26/14 @ 12:00


By Henry J. GOMEZ

Northeast Ohio Media Group

CLEVELAND

Northeast Ohio’s bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention advanced Wednesday afternoon as the party’s site-selection committee pared its lists of four contenders to two: Cleveland and Dallas.

Denver and Kansas City were eliminated.

The decision was a bit of surprise, following an ultimately incorrect report from a Colorado television station that had indicated Cleveland was out of the running.

An RNC spokesman pushed back on that report on Twitter as officials met one last time to evaluate each city’s bid. Even Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges had been preparing for bad news, having said earlier Wednesday that the Colorado news meshed with what he had been hearing from his sources.

“After extensive review the site-selection committee has chosen Cleveland and Dallas as finalists for the 2016 convention,” Enid Mickelsen, the head of the RNC’s site-selection committee, said in an email from the party. “Cleveland and Dallas demonstrated their ability to host a phenomenal convention in 2016, and the RNC is excited about the prospect of hosting our convention in either of these great cities.”

A decision is expected in late summer or early fall.

An RNC technical team is expected to return to Cleveland next week for more poking and prodding, Terry Egger, the former Plain Dealer publisher who chairs the Cleveland Host Committee, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

“There was a story out of Denver today?” a deadpan Egger replied when asked about the earlier story that had Cleveland eliminated from competition.

“There are some who would say we were the underdog all along, yet here we stand.”

As for Borges, the state party chairman said later Wednesday that he’s never been happier to be wrong. He had heard Monday that Cleveland was not likely to survive the next cut. He was unsure if any last-minute appeals helped.

“We’re going to win this thing,” a newly confident Borges said.

Conventions can be significant economic generators for a city. One study showed that the 2012 GOP convention pumped more than $200 million into the Tampa and Florida economies. That convention drew roughly 50,000 visitors.

Cleveland’s convention pitch is rooted in political geography — Ohio is a premier electoral battleground — and in a downtown renaissance that leaders said occurred after the city lost its bid for the GOP’s 2008 convention. Since that audition, Cleveland has added more hotel rooms and a new convention center.

Fundraising is another key consideration, and local boosters have estimated that Cleveland needed to raise $55 million to $60 million to cover the costs of hosting.

RNC site-selection officials made the rounds to the four cities earlier this month, showering each with compliments and national buzz. Cleveland presented first.

“Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said during a June 3 news conference at Quicken Loans Arena. “The way that this has started in Cleveland, I think the rest of the cities are going to have a lot of work to do.”

Cleveland’s pitch included dinner receptions in Playhouse Square and at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

At the latter, star draft pick Johnny Manziel and other rookies from the Cleveland Browns schmoozed the Republicans.

“The feedback that we’re getting is that the site selection committee of the RNC has been blown away by Cleveland,” Cuyahoga County GOP Chairman Rob Frost told reporters after a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame breakfast with the site-selection team “And for all that was set up for them — for the arranged events downtown and at The Q and out at University Circle and here at the Rock Hall — it was the unplanned encounters that really sealed the deal with them, of their love for Cleveland.”

Cleveland also is competing for the Democratic National Convention. A team of local leaders were in Washington, D.C., this week to make an initial pitch.

Egger said it’s not likely Cleveland could host both conventions.