Politics & Government

As more Democrats question RNC, chances rise for Charlotte City Council to reject event

Some Democratic City Council members are questioning whether Charlotte should host the 2020 Republican National Convention.
Some Democratic City Council members are questioning whether Charlotte should host the 2020 Republican National Convention. AP

More Democratic City Council members are questioning whether Charlotte should host the 2020 Republican National Convention, raising the possibility of a high-stakes, politically charged vote this month on whether to accept the convention.

Council member LaWana Mayfield this week reiterated her opposition to hosting the GOP, which is expected to nominate Donald Trump for a second term. Mayfield, who represents west Charlotte, said she would support hosting what she said would be a normal Republican convention, but said Trump leading the party makes this a unique situation.

She said she can't support hosting the convention because of the president's "hostility towards minorities and people of color."

Democrat Justin Harlow, who represents northwest Charlotte, said Thursday he is concerned about protests overwhelming the city.

"I would consider voting no," Harlow said. "I have had constituents who have reached out about this. A lot has changed. Months ago, we weren't pulling children away from their families at the border."

Earlier this week, at-large council member Democrat Braxton Winston posted a video on Facebook saying the city needed to slow down before voting to accept the convention. Winston said he is not calling for Charlotte to withdraw its bid.

Charlotte Democratic City Council member Braxton Winston said the city needs to slow down and have a dialogue about the merits of hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention, which could be awarded to Charlotte this month.

"Bringing the Republican National Convention to Charlotte is/should be more than an economic development decision," Winston posted on Facebook Monday night. "We would be asking the people of Charlotte to host a celebration for a brand of politics that has been highly divisive and some would say dangerous to our community."

The Republican National Committee is meeting in Austin July 17-20, and city officials expect the GOP's site selection committee may award the 2020 convention to Charlotte.

A group of elected officials, including Mayor Vi Lyles, has been told to keep the calendars open for those days. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority said last week it has made preliminary plans to go to Austin.

Numerous cities across the country declined to bid on the convention. For much of 2018, Charlotte was the only city to publicly bid. In late spring, Las Vegas announced it was bidding, but that city hasn't selected a venue yet. The city of Las Vegas and the city's Convention and Visitors Authority have said they are not involved with any bid.

Lyles announced the city was bidding on the RNC in February. Council members didn't talk about the convention during council meetings for much of the year, possibly assuming the city would not win.

When the city was awarded the 2012 Democratic National Convention in January 2011, Mayor Anthony Foxx and council members were holding their annual budget retreat at Johnson C. Smith University. They celebrated the news, and then quickly called a special meeting and voted unanimously to accept the convention.

But the CRVA books conventions and meetings without council approval numerous times a year. Though council members voted to formally accept the 2012 DNC, there are no firm rules about whether council members would need to take an official vote on bringing the GOP to Charlotte.

The council's first scheduled meeting after the GOP's Austin meeting is July 23.

The council has a 9-2 Democratic majority. It would take six votes to accept the convention.

Lyles couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

N.C. Republican Party executive director Dallas Woodhouse declined to comment.

Democratic council member Dimple Ajmera, an at-large member, drew attention last summer when she said the Trump voters should have no place in the council's elections or in the mayor's race.

But she has supported bringing the GOP to Charlotte. This week Ajmera said she is concerned about security, and plans to meet with Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to discuss their security plan.

Democrat Larken Egleston, who represents Dilworth and much of east Charlotte, said he's concerned about blow-back from Raleigh if Charlotte said no.

"I'm not 100 percent there (on the convention)," he said. "But I do think we're at a point in the process where it's like the toll roads. You get to a point where the negatives of pulling the rug out from something has to be seriously considered."

Egleston said the negatives would be upsetting the GOP-controlled General Assembly. In the past, Charlotte's Democratic city government has feuded with Raleigh over who controls the airport and House Bill 2. Those issues have subsided.

"The mayor has probably built a lot of good will and trust with the Republican leadership in Raleigh and Washington," he said. "I think you burn those bridges that she is building."

Democratic activists have a launched a petition to sway council members against hosting the convention.

That has promoted anger from the city's Republicans, who said they supported bringing the Democrats to Charlotte six years ago.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs