December 19, 2014

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Lorain County stands to benefit from Cleveland’s hosting of GOP convention

Lorain County will reap benefits that come with Cleveland’s selection to host the 2016 Republican National Convention, local political and tourism officials said Tuesday.

Helen Hurst, chairwoman of the Lorain County Republican Party, said she is excited by the prospect of the greater Cleveland area having a chance to display all it has to offer to people from across the nation, many of whom might have a negative view of the region.

“It’s an opportunity for Cleveland to show what it really is. It’s not what it was 30 years ago or 40 years ago when the river burned,” Hurst said. “It’s a beautiful city.”

Hurst also said she expects that some conventioneers — The Associated Press reported up to 45,000 party officials, delegates and journalists could descend on Cleveland — will spend time in Lorain County.

That will create an economic benefit not just to downtown Cleveland but also in more far-flung locations, she said.

Barb Bickel, executive director of Visit Lorain County, said the county’s roughly 1,800 lodging rooms were factored into the promised 17,000 rooms that are within 45 miles of Cleveland.

She said the county also offers outdoor and other activities that will be promoted, along with the county’s proximity to Cedar Point.

“We’re excited about the impact the convention may have on Lorain County and are looking forward to the positive impact it will bring to our region,” Bickel wrote in an email. “I would also expect our gas stations, restaurants and wineries to be impacted.”

A report prepared by the committee that hosted the Republicans in Tampa Bay in 2012 said the total direct and indirect economic impact of the convention there was about $404 million.

Even Democrats, who had been eying Cleveland as a possible site for their own 2016 convention, were excited by the prospect of hosting a national political convention.

“It’s fantastic for the city of Cleveland and indirectly it will be good for Lorain County, I suspect,” Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini said.

Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators, Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, said they were pleased with Cleveland’s selection.

Brown called it “another step forward in the city of Cleveland’s renaissance,” while Portman said in a conference call with reporters following the announcement that the convention was “an opportunity we don’t want to miss.”

Portman said that it’s been a long time since the Republicans have hosted a convention in Northeast Ohio. The Grand Old Party held conventions in Cleveland in 1924 and 1936. Democrats have never held their convention in Cleveland.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the rebirth of Cleveland as one of America’s great cities,” Portman said.

Lorain County Republican Party Vice Chairman David Arredondo said there is a political factor to Republicans picking Cleveland, which sits in a traditional battleground state.

“Ohio will be a swing state, there’s no question about it,” Arredondo said.

The convention will dominate news coverage in the state and that will mean exposing Republican ideals to voters, many of whom might not have otherwise paid much attention to the convention, he said. It could lead to more converts.

“It will help with exposure to the electorate,” he said.

Giardini said he isn’t certain that holding the convention in Cleveland will make much of a difference for Republicans in the 2016 election. He said while it will expose Republican positions to voters in largely Democratic Cleveland, those voters might not like the message they hear.

He also said Democrats and Republican opponents will be on hand to protest those positions, which means Ohio voters will get to hear the other side as well.

“I don’t think it’s going to help them or hurt them at the polls (in Ohio),” Giardini said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.