Cleveland optimistic about convention bid

GOP group could decide today between Cleveland or Dallas.

Cleveland has the potential to have a very good week.

Even as the city crosses its fingers on whether basketball megastar LeBron James might return to where he first found fame, civic leaders are also hoping for good news today when the the Republican National Committee’s site selection committee is expected to announce its recommendation for the 2016 National Republican Convention.

But unlike the LeBron sweepstakes, Cleveland has just one competitor for the convention: Dallas.

Landing the convention would be an economic boon for Cleveland, drawing tourism dollars and national attention to a city that has touted its renaissance in recent years. And while Dallas appears to have an early fundraising advantage, Cleveland may have an edge on geography. There is that swing state thing.

“We’ve put everything we can behind this,” said Robert T. Bennett, an RNC member and former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, who added that raising the necessary funds “won’t be an issue.”

With help from businesses like Key Bank, Sherwin Williams and the Eaton Corporation, Bennett said Cleveland has raised more than $30 million, roughly halfway to its goal of $60 million. Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said his city already has $50 million of the $60 million in hand.

But Cleveland may have an edge on timing. The RNC had indicated it would like to host its convention in June in order to raise more money for the general election. That’s a problem for Dallas, which has proposed a mid-July convention date. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been reluctant to give up access to American Airlines Arena in the weeks leading up to the convention because he is hopeful the Mavericks will be competing in the NBA playoffs in late June 2016.

The June date has not been an issue in Cleveland, where civic leaders have offered up space that could be used by convention planners prior to the actual convention, which would be held in Quicken Loans Arena.

Ohio’s politicians — Democrats and Republicans alike — have presented a united front: House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., created a video for the site selection committee, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, reportedly spoke to RNC head Reince Priebus last week. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has also supported Cleveland’s bid, along with his Democratic opponent: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has also gotten behind the Cleveland bid.

The full RNC is scheduled to vote on the committee’s recommendation in August.

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