CINCINNATI — Ohio's Democratic candidate for governor says LeBron James' return to Cleveland boosts more than the Cavaliers' title chances.
Ed FitzGerald, chief executive of Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, said Friday that after James left for Miami four years ago, it cost the county millions in revenues because of reduced attendance and downtown activity that hurt restaurants, hotels and other entertainment venues. The northeastern Ohio native's return will help businesses and taxpayers, he said.
"This is very good news for Ohio, and northeast Ohio in particular," FitzGerald said in an interview. "It really does help drive traffic and visitors into the Cleveland area."
He said James' return, announced Friday, keeps Cleveland's momentum going, with the NBA superstar's decision coming days after it was announced that Cleveland was the top choice to host the 2016 Republican National Convention. FitzGerald said he doesn't expect the newly improved outlook for a Cavalier playoff run to scuttle plans by the Republicans, who were interested in a June 28 start date.
"There are ways to try to work around that," said FitzGerald, who was in Cincinnati on Friday to launch weekend campaigning in southern Ohio.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for his Republican opponent, Gov. John Kasich, saw economic benefits in James' decision, too.
"It's been a week of great news for Cleveland, and it is, of course, great to see Ohio create yet another job," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.
When Kasich was running as the GOP nominee before James's first decision, in 2010, he said he was more worried about thousands of Ohioans who had lost their jobs than what James was going to do.
"I'm not singing any chorus for LeBron James," Kasich said in a radio interview, referring to a music video in which Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland joined Cleveland celebrities in appealing for James to stay. Kasich said he hoped James would remain with the Cavaliers, but the Ohio Democratic Party responded by lumping Kasich with "Ohioans Against LeBron."
Then, as governor, Kasich declared the Dallas Mavericks honorary Ohioans after they delighted bitter Cavalier fans by defeating James' Heat team in the 2011 finals.
His resolution praised MVP Dirk Nowitzki's loyalty in foregoing his free agency to stay in Dallas, and said "the proud city of Cleveland and the entire state of Ohio share in the excitement of Dallas Mavericks fans everywhere."
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