Leaders of President Barack Obama's re-election campaign clearly think picking Charlotte as the site for the 2012 Democratic National Convention will help them re-take North Carolina's 15 electoral votes this year.
Campaign manager Jim Messina said as much to reporters last week: "We put the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in part because we believe so strongly" that winning North Carolina and Virginia is a path to victory.
But is there any evidence that holding a convention in a state helps the candidate win it in November?
Not really. And yet ...
That was the answer the Observer got from Josh Putnam, a professor of political science at Davidson College and author of an influential political blog called Frontloading HQ.
"There's no evidence of that," he said, "but with a few caveats. Traditionally, these things have been held in big cities and the same big cities over and over again. New York, Chicago, L.A. ... We have not, prior to 2008, seen an effort on the part of the parties to specifically select sites based on how they would play in the general election."
In 2008, the Democrats picked Denver in hopes of winning Colorado (they did) and Republicans selected St. Paul in hopes of winning Minnesota (they didn't).
Then Putnam said this, which is the "And yet" part.
"We've seen a pretty clear trend over the last 20 years: The Democrats have not lost a state they've held a convention in - since 1988 in Atlanta," he said. "And Republicans have not won a state in which they've held a convention - since 1992, when the convention was in Houston and Bush won Texas." Tim Funk
Mancini foundation's grants to focus on gays and DNC
This year's grants from the Wesley Mancini Foundation - which benefits the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - will go to projects with a DNC focus this year.
The foundation recently extended the deadline by five months, to April 2, to give applicants more time to create projects, according to Mancini, a Charlotte businessman. The international textile designer and local gay activist launched the foundation in 2000.
Projects are required to raise the profile of the local LGBT community during the convention, and include partnerships between gay and straight organizations.
Mancini, whose foundation has awarded more than $96,000 in grants since it was created, doesn't have any specific requirements for the projects.
"I really don't have a preconceived notion of what this looks like," he said. "It could be singing, it could be chorus, it could be a play."
"I would love for a nongay organization to apply for this."
For more details or a grant application, contact Bob Scheer at 704-335-5404, ext. 402, or bscheer@wesleyman cini.com . Celeste Smith
More voices on gays, Charlotte and the DNC
Charlotteans and others are already wondering what the nation will think of the region's atmosphere toward gays and lesbians come convention time. The DNC falls four months after a statewide vote on whether to ban same-sex marriage. (Story, page 1A.) Here's more of what people had to say on how others may perceive Charlotte:
Gay city government employees, including Tom Warshauer, a manager in neighborhood and business services, have long asked for city council policies for local government workers, including domestic partner benefits and anti-discrimination policies.
"I think Charlotte has made enormous progress over the last years, but it still has not fully embraced diversity," Warshauer said. "It would be great for Charlotte to be the inclusive city that it wants to be, and to have all our policies aligned with the kind of an open society and inclusive community that we really strive to be."
Roberta Dunn , on the board of trustees for the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Charlotte, also worked on Mayor Foxx's advisory re-election committee - work that Dunn says helped land her an invitation to a recent holiday reception at the White House.
"I'm prejudiced, because I love Charlotte," the six-year resident said, when asked how LGBT visitors may regard Charlotte. "How wonderful the city has treated me as a transgender person. I've never had an issue, which has been a blessing."
If visitors judge Charlotte exclusively on the absence of gay-friendly city policies, "they'll think that Charlotte is not a welcoming city. But when they get to the city, and work for Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Time Warner, Food Lion - they do provide domestic partner benefits."
"The industries are doing it. The city and the county and the state lag behind private enterprise. It should be the other way around."
Scott Bishop , a Charlottean on the board of the Human Rights Campaign in North Carolina, notes that the fact he's now on staff with the local DNC host committee shows convention planners want the event to include everyone.
"The fact that the convention staff has reached out to the LGBT community specifically ... shows they want to be inclusive of everyone. I hope Charlotte lives up to the image I have about being an inclusive community."
Chris McLeod is executive director of The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust - Foundation For The Carolinas, which administers the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund. She's working with Krista Tillman, Dean of Hayworth College at Queens University of Charlotte, to rally straight allies to vote against the gay marriage ban amendment.
"We feel like absent a more vocal, organized effort, our concern is that Charlotte can be embarrassed," McLeod said.
"I know it can be different. I think Charlotte has made incredible inroads in the past couple of years."
This fall, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., signed on as co-sponsor of a federal bill that would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Getting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed is a key agenda item for LGBT advocates who will attend the convention.
"Discrimination must never be tolerated, and I believe that all Americans deserve an equal opportunity to fulfill their potential," Hagan said in a statement. "No one - NO ONE - should be turned away from a job or fired because of their sexual orientation OR gender identity." Celeste Smith
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