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COLUMBUS — A circus-like atmosphere complete with jugglers on stilts, a mime who dropped character at the sight of a microphone, street musicians, and costumed team mascots greeted members of a screening committee in town Wednesday to judge Columbus as a potential host for the next Democratic National Convention.
The city set out to put the best face possible on its bid to make 2016 a twofer for Ohio, with Republicans having already selected Cleveland for their presidential convention.
“I’m glad the Republicans are coming to Cleveland. I’m glad the Democrats are coming to Columbus,” former Gov. Ted Strickland told the crowd gathered to welcome the Democratic National Committee team outside the doors of Nationwide Arena, the likely focal point of a Columbus convention.
“What a contrast the people of Ohio and the people of America will see as they look at the corresponding different policies that come out of those 2016 conventions,” he said.
The DNC’s technical advisory group was quickly escorted into the arena without participating in the public events.
While a former governor participated, there was no sign of the Democrat who wants to be Ohio’s next governor, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. As the DNC screening committee arrived in Columbus, newspaper headlines pointed to a campaign that’s largely gone quiet since a 2012 police report surfaced that stated Mr. FitzGerald was found in a parked car alone with a woman who was not his wife outside a suburban Cleveland industrial complex in the early morning hours of Oct. 13 of that year.
The police officer reported they were “just talking.” Mr. FitzGerald has said nothing improper occurred, and the woman with him, Joanne Grehan, a member of an Irish delegation visiting the county, issued a statement that the situation was “innocuous.”
But then it was revealed that Mr. FitzGerald had been driving illegally for years without a valid permanent license.
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It remains to be seen what impact such questions surrounding the top of the Ohio Democratic Party’s ticket in 2014 would have on decisions affecting a 2016 convention. A final decision is not expected until late this year or early 2015.
The members were in town to judge the suitability of the arena for the actual convention where the party’s 2016 presidential candidate would be formally nominated. Over two days, they will visit area hotels downtown and in the city’s outskirts, talk transportation logistics, and look at the Arena District and the trendy, nearby Short North area as the centerpiece for restaurants and other activities for conventioneers.
Columbus is competing with Philadelphia, Phoenix, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Birmingham, Ala. With the exception of New York, all of the competing states have Republican governors.
Once it won the Republican National Convention, Cleveland was obligated to drop its bid for the Democratic convention and threw its support behind Columbus in hopes of bringing both national conventions to Ohio in 2016.
“They may nominate a president in Cleveland, but we will elect a president in Columbus,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, a state representative from Catawba Island.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.