Next week will be the first taste of a Republican National Convention for many Medina County politicians. Expectations for both the event’s effects on Cleveland and political outcomes are running high.
“The expectation is to nominate someone for president,” state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, joked of the four-day extravaganza that begins Monday at Quicken Loans
Arena downtown and will culminate Thursday in acceptance speeches by nominee Donald Trump and his reported vice president pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Ohio was the only state where Gov. John Kasich won the majority of Republicans in the primary election vote, meaning the state’s delegates are bound to vote for the governor on the first ballot on Wednesday night.
While Kasich has publicly announced he won’t be attending the official proceedings in the arena, he is having an event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Tuesday night — and it is appearing on the schedule of many Medina County politicians.
“I thought (Kasich) was the right person for the job,” said state Sen. Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township.
Obhof will represent Medina County at the convention as one of three delegates from the state’s 7th Congressional District. He is bound to Kasich on the first ballot and will likely vote for him again if the convention goes to a second ballot, he said.
Change in direction
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, said he is hopeful the convention will be a time for Republicans to unite behind Trump.
“Hopefully, there’s a unification so we can move forward,” he said.
Trump offers a chance to shift the direction of the country, something Renacci said he believes Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, is uninterested in achieving.
“The most important thing we can do is put up a candidate that is going to change the direction,” he said.
Some — including Medina County Board of Elections member Sharon Ray — are less sure, but are ready to consider the candidate,
“(Trump) is certainly not my first choice, but I’m willing to go in with an open mind,” Ray said.
But Hambley, who supported Kasich, sees Trump’s impending nomination as a reason to focus on state and county elections rather than national politics.
“We get the Republican vote out,” he said. “That goes from the top of the ticket to the bottom of the ticket … I’ll focus on the state, the local, the county campaign.”
The potential local effects of the convention are not lost on many Medina County attendees.
State Rep. Dave Hall, R-Millersburg, said he plans to connect with politicians and other out-of-state individuals to “tell the story of Ohio.”
Obhof agreed and said he hoped to discuss Ohio’s politics both individually and through several speeches he plans to give at parties and events around the convention.
“It’ll give people like me the opportunity to share the Ohio story,” he said.
Reputation to be made
Renacci said the event could also improve the reputation of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland, which is more than a “rust belt city” as it is sometimes dismissed.
“What I think they’re going to find is a wonderful city,” he said.
Delegates and others affiliated with the convention are staying as far away as Sandusky or Wadsworth from Cleveland. Obhof said the event’s effects will likely extend beyond the city itself.
“I think that all the neighboring counties will get some residual benefit from it,” he said.
Recent national unrest — including the killing of five police officers in Dallas on July 7 — has some concerned about safety issues at the convention, but local officials are hopeful.
“I’m hoping that we’re going to have a very peaceful event,” said Seville Councilman Rick Stallard, who plans to attend several receptions and parties around the convention.
Ray said she is comforted by the law enforcement presence, which public documents suggest could be around 5,000 strong.
She is also excited to attend her first Republican National Convention since the 1984 convention in Dallas, where she took a bus ride of more than 20 hours to serve as a junior volunteer.
“It’ll be nice to see it this time from the nice seats rather than the cheap seats,” she said.
Her expectations for this year?
“I think you’re going to see a lot of lively debate,” she said.