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Joe Biden visits Charlotte for fundraiser

Vice president attends event at Erskine Bowles’ home, speaks at museum

By Tim Funk and April Bethea
tfunk@charlotteobserver.com

In a Charlotte visit Thursday that brought traffic and flight delays, Vice President Joe Biden attended a private $10,000-per-plate luncheon at the home of Erskine Bowles and later spoke to about 200 campaign supporters at uptown’s Levine Museum of the New South.

There was a heavy law enforcement presence – including Secret Service agents in black Suburbans, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police on motorcycles, even a helicopter overhead – as Biden’s limousine, flags flapping, pulled into the long driveway in south Charlotte that leads onto Bowles’ heavily wooded estate.

Shuttle vans carted donors from a nearby church parking lot to the fundraiser, where salad with salmon was served.

Among those seen walking down the driveway: Dr. Dan Murrey, executive director of Charlotte’s host committee for September’s Democratic convention, which will renominate the Obama-Biden ticket.

Bowles, who hosted the Thursday event with wife Crandall, served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. More recently, he was president of the UNC system.

Biden was also greeted by six protesters from the Charlotte Tea Party, who stood with signs on the sidewalk across the street from the Bowles’ residence. The group said Biden waved at them as his limo drove by.

Vincent Bordini held a hand-written sign that read “This election is a BFD,” a reference to an off-color remark by Biden that was caught on an open mic after Congress passed President Barack Obama’s health care reform package.

“I think President Obama has been a disaster,” Bordini said. “He’s accelerated stimulus spending so much that it’s a nightmare for our children and grandchildren, who will have to pay it off.”

On Thursday afternoon, Biden and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the Democratic candidate for N.C. governor, spoke to a group of grassroots organizers who will be working to get their constituencies out to vote for Democratic candidates.

Charlotte’s Olma Echeverri, state chair of the Hispanic Democrats of NC, said Biden urged his audience to “stand up” for the president and tout his record – including saving the auto industry and all the jobs involved.

“(Biden) also mentioned all the money being spent against the president,” she said. “But he said that while Republicans can raise a lot of money, what they can’t match (Democrats) on is our manpower, our grassroots support.”

Both events were closed to the press and public.

Biden’s motorcade caused some midday traffic congestion. And Charlotte Douglas International Airport spokeswoman Lee Davis said a few flights were delayed by the departure of Air Force Two, the longest for about 25 minutes. The airport’s operations were back to normal about 6 p.m., he said.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee of Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties, according to a campaign official.

Biden’s trip to raise money comes at a time when Obama is also racing around to fundraisers – in California recently and in New York on June 4, with former President Clinton.

The Obama-Biden team appears to be concerned that they could be overspent by GOP Super PACs, which plan to continue laying out big amounts for TV attack ads in swing states such as North Carolina.

Staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.

Funk: 704-358-5703
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