Hundreds of elected officials and candidates will be among the more than 50,000 people here for this week's Democratic National Convention.
But not North Carolina's two most prominent Democratic candidates.
Neither U.S. Senate hopeful Kay Hagan nor gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue plan to attend. Both campaigns say that, with 10 weeks until the election, there's too much to do back home.
“North Carolina is a big state, and it's important that Kay talk to voters from one end … to the other,” says Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan.
Republicans suggest that the two Democrats are trying to distance themselves from party nominee Barack Obama.
In a state where a Democratic presidential candidate hasn't won since 1976, Democrats often have seemed to go out of their way to avoid appearing with their nominee. In 2004, for example, both Gov. Mike Easley and Senate candidate Erskine Bowles kept their distance from Sen. John Kerry, who would go on to lose the state to George Bush by 12 percentage points.
“The closer you get to November, the more the local Democratic candidates are going to want to distance themselves,” says Ferrell Blount, a former state GOP chairman.
But North Carolina's top Republican candidates plan to skip their convention, too.
Neither U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole nor gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory will join GOP delegates next week in Minneapolis.
Andrew Taylor, a political scientist at N.C. State, said nobody should be surprised.
“It's indicative of what the conventions have become, which is a place where not a lot of substantive business gets done but a place where party activists … get to network,” he said. “And people of that stature are already plugged into that.”
There's little evidence that Hagan or Perdue are trying to avoid Obama. Both have endorsed him and, though neither appeared with him last week in Raleigh, both were at a June event in Charlotte, though plane trouble kept Obama himself from attending.
Though the GOP convention will nominate McCain, it also will showcase Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who have low approval ratings in North Carolina and across the country.
Dole “is running for Senate in North Carolina,” says spokesman Hogan Gidley. “It just so happens she had several events scheduled during the week of convention.”
In 2004, Charlotte Mayor McCrory attended both parties' conventions.