Pittsburgh’s bid for RNC splits region’s political contingency | Politics | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh’s bid for RNC splits region’s political contingency

Pittsburgh’s bid for RNC splits region’s political contingency
Photo: Courtesy City of Pittsburgh/CP Photo: Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Councilor Ricky Burgess (left) and Mayor Ed Gainey (right) are on opposite sides of the debate to bring the RNC to Pittsburgh
Last week, Pittsburgh was named as one of four finalists to host the 2024 Republican National Convention. It was soon revealed that the pitch for the Steel City to host the large political convention was spearheaded by local tourism group VisitPITTSBURGH, with additional support from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat.

Then, it was reported in Pittsburgh media outlets that newly-seated Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey (D-Lincoln-Lemington) joined Fitzgerald. Gainey wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that Pittsburgh "would be excited to host" the convention.

But this pitch was not met with universal support from other city politicians, particularly some Democrats.

Pittsburgh City Councilor Ricky Burgess (D-Point Breeze), a longtime Gainey adversary, called on VisitPITTSBURGH to withdraw its bid for the RNC. In a press release, he noted the Republican Party’s efforts in supporting anti-LGBTQ laws, denying climate change, passing voting suppression laws that would disproportionately affect Black Americans, and the far right’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol.

“The Republican Party is the party of hatred,” said Burgess on Jan. 9. “Laws passed by Republican legislatures demonstrate that the Republican Party hates science, the Republican Party hates women, the Republican Party hates our LGBTQIA+ family members, friends and neighbors, the Republican Party hates African-Americans, the Republican Party hates Muslim-Americans and, having witnessed the vicious attack on the U.S. Capitol last year, where many Republicans tried to overthrow our government, and perhaps hang the then-Vice President, it is clear that the Republican Party hates democracy itself. What possible reason could justify inviting that much hatred to our city?”

Allegheny County Councilor at-large Bethany Hallam (D-North Side) also emphatically opposes the RNC coming to Pittsburgh, tweeting on Jan. 8, “Um absolutely the fuck not.”

Hallam was joined by state Rep. Emily Kinkead (D-North Side), who tweeted on Jan. 8, “Two days ago, we acknowledged the one year anniversary of the #Insurrection. Today, we’re inviting the insurrectionists to come enjoy beautiful Pittsburgh?! Fuck off, @RNC - you’re not welcome here.”

Congressional candidate Jerry Dickinson, a Democrat from Swissvale, called on Gainey and Fitzgerald to renounce their support for bringing the RNC to Pittsburgh.

“The prospect of the City of Pittsburgh playing host to a political institution, which harbors and propagates far-right extremism and anti-democratic sentiment misrepresents our values as a community,” said Dickinson in a statement. “Pennsylvania is a swing state that President Biden narrowly won in 2020. The Democratic Party cannot risk our region’s leadership being viewed as complicit with the Republican Party in promoting the ideas of white nationalism, xenophobia, and autocracy whatsoever. There is too much at stake.”

Pittsburgh City Councilor Erika Strassburger acknowledged that her office doesn’t grant her much power in rejecting Pittsburgh from hosting the RNC, but tweeted on Jan. 8, “I realize I don’t get a vote here, but just for the record, I vote nope.”

In his letter to the RNC, Gainey noted that he believes hosting the RNC in 2024 would be a boon to the region’s economy with “a direct infusion of over $200 million" into Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Allegheny County Councilor at-large Sam DeMarco (R-North Fayette) echoed Gainey in signifying his support for bringing the RNC to Pittsburgh. “I’m disappointed that so many who call themselves ‘progressive’ fail to see the benefit of $200 million in economic activity for the region,” tweeted DeMarco on Jan. 9.

Studies out of Cleveland, the last city to host an RNC in 2016 (the 2020 convention was largely virtual), showed that Northeast Ohio saw an economic impact of between $142-188 million. The studies also showed that visitors to the Clevand convention arrived with negative impressions of Cleveland (calling it "rust belt," "dull," "boring," and "dangerous” in interviews), but they left with a more positive view (saying it was "friendly," "nice," "clean," and "safe" after the convention was over).

Pittsburgh City Council President Theresa Kail-Smith (D-West End) is also supportive of the bid, citing the bipartisanship and potential economic benefits.

"The mayor represents all people and he’s going to do the best he can for everyone, not just one party," Kail-Smith told WESA. "I think this is good for businesses, and many of these businesses are owned by Democrats and employ Democrats."