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Arlington mayor ‘stunned’ at GOP choice of Cleveland

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 08, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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A Republican National Committee panel Tuesday recommended Cleveland as the location for the 2016 GOP convention — dashing hopes for Dallas, the other major contender.

The Republican site selection committee backed Cleveland and the full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month.

The Dallas bid called for using the American Airlines Center for most events, but included use of AT&T Stadium for special events that could have included opening or closing ceremonies, or a special event before the convention.

“Clearly, I was stunned and disappointed,” Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. “I really hate that they did not get it. They put on a great show.”

Cluck said he thought Dallas would be chosen in the end.

“I feel really badly for them; they tried hard,” he said.

Paying for the convention was the top criterion for the 12-member site selection committee. The previous two GOP conventions sapped party dollars during election years, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus insisted the host city not leave the central party picking up the tab, expected to be around $60 million.

Cleveland pledged to raise the tens of millions of dollars required to pay for the weeklong rally. At the same time, a successful convention injects millions into a city’s economy.

In a post-convention report, organizers of Tampa, Florida’s 2012 GOP convention said its $58 million in fundraising resulted in a $214 million direct economic impact.

Organizers earlier eliminated bids from Denver; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas and Phoenix.

After Las Vegas was no longer in play, Dallas emerged as a major competitor, in part because of its coalition of wealthy donors with ties to the Bush family and the oil industry. Dallas hosted the 1984 Republican convention, and Texas is seen as a reliably GOP state in presidential elections.

“Dallas, they put their best forward and they did a great job bidding for the convention,” said Jennifer Hall, Tarrant County Republican Party Chairwoman. “We wish Cleveland the best and look forward to a great convention there.”

Cleveland has made an aggressive — and persuasive — pitch to host Republicans on the shores of Lake Erie.

Ohio is a perennially hard-fought state in presidential campaigns. No Republican has captured the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The last candidate to win the White House without Ohio was John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, in 1960.

The RNC dispatched advisers to Cleveland last week for a second visit to review technical aspects of a potential convention there, officials said.

The RNC panel did not send a technical team back to Dallas.

In addition to the finances, officials focus on each city’s transportation and hotel plans. Tampa’s convention forced many delegates – including major donors – into hotels an hour from the convention site and was reliant on buses.

Timing, too, is a factor.

Priebus wants the convention scheduled for early summer 2016, roughly two months sooner than has become the norm. That would give the GOP’s next presidential nominee quicker access to tens of millions of dollars in general election cash.

He said a specific start date for the convention has not been picked.

Arlington City Council member Jimmy Bennett said North Texas has had its share of big events, including a Super Bowl and the Final Four at AT&T Stadium.

“It’s OK that we occasionally finish second in the competition for events,” Bennett said.

Democrats, meanwhile, are on their own timeline for picking a venue. Democratic National Committee officials will begin site visits with a stop July 21 in Birmingham, Alabama. Other cities in contention are New York City; Philadelphia; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is expected to announce a host city either late this year or early in 2015.

Star-Telegram reporter Diane Smith contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated press and the Star-Telegram archives.

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