Pittsburgh becomes major contender for 2024 Republican National Convention

Written By Zack Lawry, Co-News Editor

Pittsburgh has been shortlisted to host the 2024 Republican National Convention by the Republican National Committee, according to a recent Politico report.

As the 2022 midterm election approaches closer for United States voters, Republican Party officials are narrowing their search for a location to host the party’s 2024 national convention. The search, which will conclude in the spring, will see party officials scope out Pittsburgh as a potential location for the upcoming event.

Pittsburgh is listed alongside Milwaukee, Nashville, and Salt Lake City as the final four cities in contention for the convention. The event will see the party officially select its candidate for the next presidential election, which takes place in November of 2024.

The Republican National Convention is a multi-day event held every four years, much like the Democratic National Convention. The event brings together figures and leaders from the Republican Party to build voter momentum, reiterate the party’s platform and have delegates from all states gather to cast votes to decide the party’s presidential candidate.

If Pittsburgh is chosen, the convention itself would likely be hosted downtown (likely at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center or PPG Paints Arena), not far from Point Park’s campus. The event is usually held over the summer, when many students are away from campus. However, students who continue to live or work downtown as well as those attending summer classes could be impacted by the surge of visitors to the city and the ensuing protests.

Although the convention could bring conflict to the university’s campus, it could also bring opportunity. Dean of the School of Communication Bernie Ankney believes that students in the School of Communications could benefit from the event.

“I’d love to have SOC [School of Communications] students participate,” Ankney said. “It’s years away, and it’s hard to respond to a hypothetical. But it could be a terrific opportunity for Point Park students.”

VisitPittsburgh, the official tourism development organization of Allegheny County, is pushing to bring the convention to Pittsburgh since it would help increase tourism into the city, along with drawing money into local businesses.

The possibility of drawing thousands of people to Pittsburgh for a multi-day event would be a boon to Pittsburgh’s local economy, as hotels, restaurants and other local businesses especially after suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic offer their services to the multitude of visitors coming to Pittsburgh for the convention.

“I think the [Republican National Convention] coming to Pittsburgh would be a positive thing for Pittsburgh while businesses are continuing to try to recover economically from the pandemic,” Maddie Corcoran, a 2021 graduate in secondary social studies and special education, said. “My views may not align with the groups coming in, but the money coming in from people filling the businesses such as hotels and restaurants would be a fantastic thing for Pittsburgh.”

However, the influx of visitors could also bring potential conflict, especially considering the contentious nature of a major party’s national convention ahead of what will likely be another impassioned presidential election. The 2016 Republican National Convention drew multiple protests against the Republican Party, with one day resulting in 18 arrests for “felonious assault against a police officer, failure to disperse, and resisting arrest,” according to CNN.

The latest convention happened in August of 2020. The first day was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, though most of the event was held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Featured speakers included members of the Trump family, as well as other party figures such as Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, recent Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, and UFC President Dana White, according to Politico.

Beyond Point Park, the prospect of the Republican National Convention being hosted in Pittsburgh has been met with a mixed reaction. Some legislators are in favor of the change, such as County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and new Mayor Ed Gainey.

After taking office earlier this month, Mayor Ed Gainey expressed interest in bringing the Convention to Pittsburgh in 2024. During his first week in office, Gainey authored a letter to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel encouraging the Committee to select Pittsburgh as the Convention’s location, saying that the city would be “excited” to serve as host. In the letter, Gainey promoted Pittsburgh and its residents in a pitch to host the event, per WESA.

“As a lifelong Pittsburgh resident, I know that Pittsburgh is known for our hard work, incredible talent, and picturesque views — including our breathtaking ‘front door’ as you travel through the Fort Pitt Tunnel when arriving from the airport,” Gainey said. “With the three rivers and many bridges Downtown, Pittsburgh is one of the most beautiful and walkable cities in the country.”

“The economic impact of this event should it be held in Pittsburgh, if selected runs in the 100s of millions of dollars,” Sam DeMarco, Republican Allegheny County Councilman At-Large told WPXI, adding “I would commend the new mayor of Pittsburgh Ed Gainey on recognizing the economic benefit that this could provide for this city.”

However, the possibility of hosting the event in Pittsburgh has sparked some opposition from Democratic leaders and residents within the city. Pittsburgh City Councilman Reverend Ricky Burgess is among those who have taken a stance against bringing the convention to Pittsburgh, voicing his objections in a letter to VisitPittsburgh.

“As disturbing as it is to learn that the Republican National Committee is considering Pittsburgh for its 2024 National Convention, it is appalling that VisitPittsburgh, which receives millions of dollars in tax revenue each year, is leading this charge,” Burgess said. “The Republican Party is the party of hatred. 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?”

Along with his official letter, Burgess wrote about concerns over the insurrection that took place at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as taking issue with the Republican Party’s stances on issues such as LGBTQIA+ rights.

With the exception of the mostly-remote 2020 convention, the Republican National Convention usually draws large audiences, with thousands of delegates casting their votes for the party’s presidential candidate, in addition to speakers, staff and other guests.

Additionally, the 2016 National Convention drew in 15,000 media members, according to The Guardian. The 2024 Convention will likely bring thousands of Republicans from across the country in attendance, as well as protestors arriving to the city in opposition of the convention.

Officials from the Republican National Committee will visit each of the prospective locations before narrowing down the list and ultimately selecting a location.