Columbus Loses Bid To Host Republican National Convention

Columbus has lost its bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)
Columbus has lost its bid to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)

Ohio’s hopes for one of the two major party presidential conventions in 2016 have dwindled slightly. Columbus has been eliminated from consideration but Cleveland and Cincinnati remain in the running.

Democratic Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called a press conference shortly after the Republican National Committee announced the city had made the first cut to host its convention, saying he’d gotten a very brief phone call with the news that Cleveland was among the six cities still under consideration.

“This second phase is one where they send in a technical team, I guess, to validate whether or not what we have asserted in our application is correct. We make it through this round and we’ll go through to the third round which is a full site visit,” says Jackson.

City leaders said they were optimistic to have made it this far. That was the sentiment in Cincinnati as well, expressed by Democratic Mayor John Cranley.

“We are excited as all can be that we are a finalist for this convention, and we will do everything we can to convince the National Republican Party to pick Cincinnati,” says Cranley.

But as officials in northeast and southwest Ohio celebrated, those in the central part of the state were downcast. Democratic Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman got the bad news in a phone call just after a press conference, and he said it appeared that issues with transportation may have hurt Columbus’ bid.

“Folks coming to the city, getting right downtown or to Easton or the Ohio State University, need to have good public transportation. So we’ve got to look at COTA and we’ve got to look at light rail to downtown,” says Coleman.

Southwest Ohio is strongly Republican. While Cleveland is solidly Democratic, leaders don’t feel that will hurt their chances. It’s thought that Las Vegas is the frontrunner, though. Whichever community is selected to host the convention will have to raise at least $50 million, but some studies have shown the return on that investment could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The RNC’s next announcement is expected in late May. Democrats have approached all three cities about their 2016 convention, and Coleman says Columbus is making a strong push to campaign for that convention. While Ohio has played a key role in the last several presidential contests, Ohio hasn’t hosted a major party convention since 1936.