PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh is on a short-list to host the 2024 Republican presidential convention. But some local leaders say it’s an economic winner for the region while others worry about the politics.
Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Nashville and Milwaukee are on the Republican short-list to host the next presidential convention and those who promote conventions in the city like VisitPittsburgh are seeing dollar signs.
“Similar cities to Pittsburgh – Cleveland is the most recent in 2016 – looking at some of the information that the RNC (Republican National Committee) has given us, the economic impact for Cleveland in 2016 was $200 million of direct spending in the local economy,” Jerad Bacher, CEO of VisitPittsburgh, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Monday.
VisitPittsburgh is overseeing the city’s bid to host the Republican convention, and Bacher says this convention will bring in substantially more revenue.
As for logistics, the region now has the hotel rooms to accommodate a large crowd.
“We have over 18,000 hotel rooms in Allegheny County. The RNC, the convention itself, needs close to 16,000, so we can certainly host it here in the city,” says Bacher.
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano reports
Bacher says the GOP convention itself would most likely be at the PPG Paints Arena with spillover events at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
On Monday, the RNC confirmed staff will visit all four cities to narrow the choices down to three.
“We’re expecting what they call a site inspection in the next few weeks so that we can really show them everything Pittsburgh has to offer,” says Bacher.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat who supports holding the Republican convention here, says this is a great chance to reshape Pittsburgh’s image.
“We get to show off Pittsburgh to the country and the world about all the great things that are happening – that we are not an old, declining rustbelt city anymore,” says Fitzgerald. “We’re a city of robotics, artificial intelligence, life sciences and eds and meds, all the great things that we are proud of in Pittsburgh.”
Pittsburgh’s bid to host the Republican presidential convention in 2024 has sparked controversy among Democrats. Not every Democratic official thinks it’s a good idea to promote an opposing political party.
Sources tell KDKA’s Jon Delano that former Mayor Bill Peduto was among those who opposed submitting a bid to host the Republican convention in Pittsburgh. He’s hardly alone.
“The Republican party is responsible for trying to overthrow the government of the United States,” says the Reverend Ricky Burgess, a Democratic Pittsburgh city council member.
Burgess says he sees no reason for Pittsburgh to legitimize Donald Trump and his supporters.
“Two-thirds of the Republican party still believe that Donald Trump won the election. I believe that the Republican party is a clear and present danger to American democracy and should not be showcased in our city,” he says.
Peduto, who also opposed the city hosting conventions for the National Rifle Association and the shale gas industry, reportedly also objected to the public safety costs and refused to sign on to VisitPittsburgh’s bid.
But on Saturday, Mayor Ed Gainey reversed that to join Fitzgerald in supporting the bid.
“We typically don’t hold litmus tests for groups that come in whether it’s Planned Parenthood or the NRA,” says Fitzgerald.
The choice of Pittsburgh makes good political sense, says Republican state party chair Lawrence Tabas, because he says his party is picking up support among working people in this region.
“This is an acknowledgment by the Republican party, and I’m proud of it, that our state is going to be key to victory and that Pittsburgh is a symbolic reference to the support that we have among working people in this commonwealth,” notes Tabas.
But Democratic party chair Nancy Patton Mills says hosting a convention doesn’t add up to political wins. Philadephia hosted a GOP convention for George W. Bush in 2000 and a Democratic convention for Hillary Clinton in 2016, both of whom lost Pennsylvania.
“I’m not terribly concerned about how it would influence us politically, but I am sympathetic to those who object to the Republicans coming to Pittsburgh,” says Mills. “But I understand that the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are a business also.”