Politics & Government

Charlotte gaining momentum for 2020 GOP convention, officials say

The Wall Street Journal reports Charlotte is closer to landing the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The Wall Street Journal reports Charlotte is closer to landing the 2020 Republican National Convention. Observer file

As the Republican National Committee nears a decision on where to host the 2020 GOP presidential convention, multiple sources say the momentum appears to be with Charlotte.

"All indications are Charlotte is the leading candidate and people connected to the process believe it is coming, but that is not finalized," a Republican official familiar with the proceedings told McClatchy.

The official, who will be at the RNC meeting in Austin next week, was not authorized to talk about the private discussions on the record.

The RNC is expected to vote on the site selection committee's recommendation next week at its summer meeting in Austin.

News that Republican officials are "finalizing details" of bringing their 2020 national convention to Charlotte was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Quoting "people familiar with the selection process," the Journal said that GOP officials have "moved away" from the notion of holding the convention in Las Vegas.

Charlotte's bid has run into opposition recently from some Democratic City Council members and other critics. They say they don't want the city associated with President Donald Trump. Democratic Council Member LaWana Mayfield cited what she called the president's "hostility towards minorities and people of color."

But Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, made the case for the convention in an op-ed for the Observer Tuesday.

"Charlotte is a place where we value diverse experiences and inclusive dialogue," she wrote. "The current political climate, with its divisive rhetoric and harmful policies, does not represent my values or the values of most Charlotteans. But if Charlotte is the site for the RNC, we can show that our city is about inclusion and leverage it as an opportunity to demonstrate our values of respect while honoring our differences."

The City Council could take an informal vote Monday on whether to support bringing the Republican National Convention to the city in 2020.

The Republican National Committee is meeting July 17-20 in Austin. But as it appears more likely Charlotte will win the convention, some council Democrats have said they either oppose hosting the convention or have reservations about it.

Asked for comment by McClatchy, the Republican National Committee provided a statement from Ronald Kaufman, the chair of the RNC site selection committee, that read: “We are still in negotiations and talks continue with more than one city. Several steps remain before a city is selected.”

The city has not released an agenda for the Monday meeting. It's possible council members and Lyles could discuss the convention in a closed session meeting and get an informal head count, which they often do for economic development projects.

They could also vote in open session on whether they support hosting the convention. People opposed to the city hosting the convention are planning to protest at the meeting, which is scheduled for zoning petitions.

So far, Democrats Mayfield and Justin Harlow have said they will vote no on bringing the RNC to Charlotte. Democrat Braxton Winston has said he is concerned about hosting, but has not decided how he will vote.

Another Democrat, Matt Newton, said Tuesday he is undecided.

"My primary concern is about public safety," Newton said. "I am also considering the economic prosperity the convention could bring, not just for the city, but for my area."

If Mayfield, Harlow, Newton and Winston all vote no, that's only four votes against the RNC on an 11-person council. The council's two Republicans, Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari, support hosting.

Democratic Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt has said she opposes President Trump's policies but supports bringing the RNC to Charlotte. Democrat Dimple Ajmera has said she supports having the RNC, though she said Tuesday night she is now undecided.

Democrat Larken Egleston has said he is undecided.

The only other city bidding is Las Vegas. The Las Vegas bid does not have the backing of the city or tourism officials there, and it also doesn't have a site lined up.

Michael McDonald, the chair of the Nevada GOP, told the Observer this week that a new football stadium being built for the Oakland Raiders — who are moving to Las Vegas — could be a good venue.

But that stadium won't be finished until the summer of 2020, right around the time of the convention.

The Wall Street Journal said Trump has privately expressed interest in holding the convention in Las Vegas.

But it said his advisers "were concerned about nominating the president, who has been accused of having affairs with a pornography performer and a Playboy model, in a town often referred to as 'sin city'."

Trump has denied the affairs took place.

Jim Morrill; 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill