FitzGerald Pushing Cleveland Effort To Host National Political Convention

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UPDATED: Friday February 21, 2014 6:03 PM

Just days after Mayor Michael Coleman said Columbus has increased its efforts to land a national political convention in 2016, the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate said he is working on a competing plan for Cleveland.

"There should be a convention in Ohio, and my first choice is our hometown," said Ed FitzGerald.  "We've put together a coalition of folks between Mayor (Frank) Jackson and myself in Cleveland.  Folks from the Democratic and Republican parties have had meetings with us.  We've brought in a lot of people from the corporate community as well."

FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive, and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson held a press conference on Thursday touting Cleveland as the choice for a national convention.

"We're going to have something pending before both Cleveland City Council and County Council coming up, where we're asking them to commit about $2.5 million as our share of what a bid process might take," FitzGerald told reporters in Columbus on Friday.  "We've gotten strong commitments from the corporate community up there."

Brian Ross from Experience Columbus, who is leading the central Ohio pitch, estimates a convention in central Ohio could generate $150 million in revenue.

"Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the largest city in Ohio and a very vibrant and diverse city," said Ross.  "Typically you have the northern part of the state go Democratic, the southern part of the state go Republican and how Columbus goes, typically, is how Ohio goes."

A spokesman for Coleman told 10TV that FitzGerald has not reached out to Columbus officials about the competing bids.

"I doubt the mayor and Ed FitzGerald have discussed their respective convention bids," said spokesman Daniel Williamson.  "Obviously, FitzGerald is a key supporter of Cleveland's efforts, and Coleman is a key supporter of Columbus' efforts, which are competing against each other as well as other cities."

Coleman, now in his 15th year as the mayor of Columbus, has not yet endorsed FitzGerald.

While stumping for a national convention in Washington in January, Coleman irritated some Democrats when he said Republican Gov. John Kasich “would be tough to beat” in November.

"I expect an endorsement from the mayor of FitzGerald in the near future," said Williamson.  "But there is no date set at this point."

FitzGerald acknowledges he has not spoken to Coleman about the competing bids.

“Look, if Cleveland doesn't get one of the conventions I hope Columbus does,” said FitzGerald.  "Columbus has some great stories to tell about the improvements that have been made here.  It's a great city and made great progress.  We're very proud about the amount of progress we've made in Cleveland.”

In the past year, central Ohio has hosted the Presidents Cup and a World Cup qualifier in soccer.  Nationwide Arena will host the National Hockey League All-Star Game next January along with nine NCAA championship tournaments.

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