Columbus Strengthens Bid For Democratic National Convention
Ohio's Capital City is trying new tactics as it competes against five other cities for the rights to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. It comes after a failed attempt to reel-in the Republican National Convention earlier this spring.
Brian Ross from Experience Columbus admits the city learned some tough lessons after Republicans quickly dismissed central Ohio.
"I would say yes, our language in our bid to Democrats changed and we also tried to illustrate a little bit more how things can work," said Ross. "I would say we also used some case studies, more in the Democratic proposal than we did with Republicans. We move around successfully hundreds of thousands of people."
Ross says the plan illustrates how Columbus handles Ohio State home football games, the July 4th celebration of Red, White and Boom, and the yearly Arnold Sports Festival.
Republicans close to the Republican National Committee say two issues in particular doomed Columbus from being seriously considered.
First, a lack of direct flights in and out of Port Columbus from major cities around the country. Second, a solid transportation plan on ways delegates would be moved around from the airport, to their hotels, to downtown and Nationwide Arena.
"We know that transportation is a very important point to the Democratic National Convention and it's something we continue to address," said Ross. "We are very confident that we can move these individuals around. We can get people downtown very efficiently."
Ross says the city has been in contact with major airlines to see if more direct flights can be arranged specifically for the convention.
"We have a game plan put together to help increase those flight opportunities to those areas that might be under served," said Ross. "As a matter of fact, Southwest was just in our community, touring it and meeting with our business leaders to learn what more direct flights could do."
It's a message that Democratic mayor Michael Coleman is said to be making with other elected officials across the country.
"We have the experience now of bringing major conventions into the city of Columbus," said Coleman.
Besides Columbus, Democrats are considering Birmingham, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix.
Democratic insiders say Birmingham and Phoenix are long shots, leaving Columbus as one of four likely picks.
Ross acknowledges that the use of Ohio Stadium is more prominent in the pitch to Democrats, hoping to appeal to Hillary Clinton supporters.
Hillary Clinton won Ohio's primary in 2008 and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, carried the state twice.
"We do have a lot of political connections we can utilize on the Democratic side," said Ross. "And we continue to say that if you win central Ohio, you can win Ohio. And you need this state to get into the White House. And we’ll continue to share that message with the Democratic Party.”
Ross estimates the convention could bring in $160 million for central Ohio.