If Ohio tends to be a center stage for political campaigning, Columbus could take the spotlight in the next few years.
Columbus made a bid and is now a finalist for the Republican National Convention in 2016 and has started efforts to gather a bid for the Democratic National Convention as well.
“I think in general, hosting either of these conventions is Columbus’ Super Bowl,” said Scott Peacock, public relations manager at Experience Columbus. “It is the biggest event that would ever take place in our city to this point.”
Experience Columbus helped put together and submit the bid for the Republican convention, something Peacock said includes listing hotels, arenas, transportation and other infrastructure specifics in Columbus. He said the organizers had about three weeks after the requirements for the Republican convention were released to put together the bid.
“We’re acting as the connector and the collaborator of all the different people and the community,” Peacock said. “Our role is really to act as the gateway agent … look at the specifics of what they need and go out into the community and submit the actual bid.”
The requirements for the 2016 Democratic National Convention have not yet been released, Peacock said, but the city is planning on submitting a bid for that convention as well.
“(Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman) is happy to have either one,” said Dan Williamson, a spokesman from the mayor’s office. “While he is a strong Democrat, he would be very happy to have the Republican convention here; he would be very happy to have the Democratic convention here.”
Coleman mentioned wanting to host a political convention of some type in his State of the City address Feb. 19.
“The national convention would create an infusion of jobs and recognition and command the eyes of the world on Columbus in a way no other event could. By committing a competitive bid, we’re sending a message to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world that Columbus is ready for prime time,” Coleman said in the address.
Columbus would need to raise about $50 million to host a convention from either local, state or national funds, Peacock said, but the city would be expected to take in about $160 million in return.
Peacock said “the time is now” for Columbus to submit a bid for a convention.
“Our brand has never had a higher rank than it does right now,” he said.
Williamson agreed that the city is ready for a major political convention.
“I think it speaks to what we’ve become as a city,” Williamson said. “Columbus is recognized as one of the top cities in the nation and we think we’re continuing in that direction. I think it speaks to how far we’ve come and the direction we’re going.”
Representatives from the Ohio Democratic Party and the Ohio Republican Party did not respond to requests for comment.
Cincinnati and Cleveland are also on the list of eight Republican convention finalists, which Reince Priebus, the chairman for the Republican National Committee, announced on Twitter Feb. 27. The list also includes Denver, Dallas, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“It’s not surprising,” Williamson said of Cincinnati and Cleveland also bidding for the Republican convention. “Every year, Ohio is the center of the political universe and frankly Columbus is the center of the political universe”
Peacock agreed that it wasn’t surprising to hear that three major cities in Ohio all placed a bid.
“We bid against Cincinnati and Cleveland every day for convention business … so it’s not new for us to go head-to-head with them,” he said. “I think what it means overall is that the state of Ohio is really strong right now. I think it’s a good thing.”
Miranda Onnen, a third-year in political science and economics and vice chair of College Republicans at OSU, said a convention coming to Columbus could be beneficial for OSU students as well.
“Going to college is all about learning and being exposed to new experiences, and having a major national political convention would bring both of those opportunities straight to Ohio State students,” she said.
Representatives from the OSU College Democrats did not respond to requests for comment.
Representatives from Columbus presented the bid for the Republican National Committee Monday in Washington, D.C., and should hear sometime in “mid-March” if the city will be selected for the next round, which could include all bidding cities or a narrowed down list, according to the Republican party website.
“We feel very confident that we’re a strong player in this. It may be our first time bidding on it but we’re one of the front runners,” Peacock said.