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Columbus turns attention to 2016 Democratic National Convention

Columbus plans to bid for the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Columbus plans to bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Columbus hasn’t given up on hosting one of the biggest parties of 2016.

After the city was bumped out of the running to host the Republican National Convention last week, many have their eyes turned toward the Democratic National Convention in hopes it will come to Ohio’s capital city in 2016.

While bids are not yet open and the parameters of the DNC have yet to be released, Columbus leaders still have the convention on their minds.

“We are determined to get something here. If not now, then we’ll go for 2020, but at this point we are actively pursuing the Democratic National Convention,” said Beth Ervin, director of communications for Experience Columbus.

Experience Columbus, a company that promotes and advertises the city, helped put together the bid for the RNC and is also gathering materials for the DNC. Scott Peacock, public relations manager at Experience Columbus, said last month this includes listing hotels, arenas, transportation and other infrastructure specifics in Columbus.

Ervin said Friday she was disappointed and surprised to hear Columbus is no longer in the running for the RNC.

“We feel like we offered a package that was every bit as good as the other cities. We have what it takes,” she said.

Dan Williamson, a spokesman for Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman’s office, also said it was disappointing to hear Columbus would not be hosting the RNC.

“In our mind, if there are three cities in Ohio going for it and they just wanted to pick one, we think we’re the best,” he said last week.

There are still six cities left in the running to host the Republican convention, including Cincinnati and Cleveland. Ervin said other Ohio cities still being on the ballot for the RNC is motivation for Columbus to push harder for the DNC.

“If it changes anything, it will make us even more determined,” she said. “People are often surprised to hear that we’re the largest city in the state and I think maybe even this decision may reflect that. There’s still a perception out there that Columbus is the little sister and it would be kind of like a coming out party for us.”

Representatives from College Democrats, College Republicans and the Ohio Democratic Party did not return requests for comment.

Ohio State Interim President Joseph Alutto said it would be exciting to host a political convention, no matter what the party.

“It’s the excitement of being a part of that, it’s the excitement of students being able to participate in that in a variety of ways,” Alutto said in a March 31 interview with The Lantern. “I mean, just to be around while that is happening, meeting people who are coming into town, understanding the extent to which that political process means to be involved in citizenship. The symbolism is wonderful, the visibility will be wonderful, not just for Columbus but for Ohio State.”

He also mentioned that hosting would be good for the city to bring in revenue.

“One of the advantages of bringing in a convention, besides all the political excitement and such, is you’re increasing tax revenues, and increasing tax revenues helps us all in the long run, including Ohio State,” Alutto said.

Peacock said Columbus would need to raise about $50 million from either local, state or national funds to host a convention, but the city would be expected to take in about $160 million in return.

In some ways, only having one bid is a good thing, Williamson said.

“We can focus solely on it without trying to do two things at once,” he said. “It takes a lot of time and effort to go after one of these conventions and if we were trying to do both at the same time, that would be difficult, and so we’ll be able to focus solely on the Democratic National Convention.”

Ervin said Columbus being a traditionally liberal city could play to its advantage while placing the bid for the DNC.

“We think of ourselves as smart and open. That’s kind of our brand essence here, because we have so many college students, so many creative capital industries here and small businesses, and we are friendly and welcoming to anybody, whomever, and I think that’s a reputation people who come here find that out very fast,” he said. “I would think the Democrats would want to showcase themselves in a city that so obviously represents those ideals.”

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