Supporters began lining up early outside the Charlotte Convention Center Thursday as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump returned to Charlotte for a pair of fundraisers and an evening campaign rally.
Trump headlined a 6 p.m. fundraising dinner at uptown’s Westin Hotel. He had another fundraiser Thursday afternoon at Trump National Golf Club near Mooresville, and he visited a Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Iredell County, where, according to reports, he shot an M4 assault rifle.
After his dinner fundraiser, he’ll cross the street for a 7:30 p.m. rally at the Convention Center, where he spoke to the VFW convention in July. Doors opened at 4:30 p.m., and social media showed dozens of supporters gathered inside the convention center.
Trump’s visit to Charlotte comes amid a shakeup in the campaign. He’s also buying his first TV ads in North Carolina, with $838,000 worth of ads set to run in the state from Aug. 19 to 29, according to NBC. Of that, $347,000 is set to target the Charlotte market.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has a slight edge over Trump in the state, according to the latest average of polls from Real Clear Politics. She’s leading Trump 45.3 percent to 43.3 percent.
Stephen Bannon, who runs the conservative Breitbart News, was named as the campaign’s chief executive on Wednesday. And Kellyanne Conway, a veteran Republican pollster, became campaign manager.
Outside, about 100 people began lining up around noon. Tables of merchandise vendors were set up along College Street, displaying “Hillary For Prison” T-shirts and “Bomb the S--- Out of ISIS” buttons, as well as water bottles with Trump’s face on them.
Nearby, former state Sen. Malcolm Graham held a news conference to denounce Gov. Pat McCrory for supporting Trump. McCrory is an honorary chair of Trump’s Charlotte fundraiser. McCrory has appeared with Trump before, most recently at last week’s rally in Wilmington.
“Gov. McCrory has shown his true colors,” said Graham, who appeared on behalf of McCrory’s Democratic opponent, Roy Cooper, and the state Democratic Party. At least one Hillary Clinton supporter showed up outside, holding a sign in protest of Trump.
Before the rally started, Rose Hamid, president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas, got kicked out. At a Trump rally in Rock Hill earlier this year, she was escorted out after standing in silent protest of the candidate’s comments about Muslims.
“I’m here to put a positive image on Islam and Muslims,” she said Thursday. Hamid had been handing out pens with “Salam,” or “peace,” written on them.
A security guard wouldn’t say why she got kicked out. “I don’t talk to press.”
Some supporters waiting outside the convention center said they’ve been to see Trump before. Philip and Diane Ezzell, 67, from arrived at 9 a.m. to get to the front of the line. This is fourth Trump rally for the Monroe residents.
Philip Ezzell said he likes Trump because “he’s not bought and paid for,” and called Clinton is “a big liar” and “corrupt.”
The Ezzells also like Trump’s position on trade and American manufacturing. He worked in textiles for 33 years, and they moved five times because of plants closing or struggling.
“We lived it,” Diane Ezzell said.
I think this is our last chance.
Philip Ezzell, 67, former textile worker from Monroe.
They say both parties got us into trouble, but Trump is the only one to turn things around.
“I think this is our last chance,” Philip Ezzell said.
“We desperately need Trump now,” Diane Ezzell said.
At the uptown fundraiser, former Mecklenburg Judge Bill Belk, Realtor Fred Godley and 12th District Republican Leon Threatt were among the guests. Some of the donors also attended the luncheon fundraiser in Mooresville.
“He says the things I think,” Godley told a reporter.
Fundraisers could bring in $1.5 million
Ed Broyhill of Winson-Salem, co-chair of both fundraisers, said the fundraisers are expected to raise about $1.5 million. He said around 100 people are expected at the Westin dinner and as many as 250 at Trump National.
GOP Chairman Reince Priebus will speak at the dinner. Gov. Pat McCrory and Thom Tillis are expected to be there. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is listed as an honorary co-chair but not expected to attend.
45.3 percentHillary Clinton’s support among N.C. voter’s
43.3 percentDonald Trump’s support
Former Nucor CEO and Trump adviser Dan DiMicco said he will introduce Trump at the Charlotte fundraiser.
Tickets to the Charlotte fundraiser run as high as $50,000. Co-chairs include DiMicco; Charlotte Pipe and Foundry CEO Roddey Dowd Jr. and Broyhill, a Winston-Salem investor.
The money goes to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising effort between the Trump campaign, the national Republican Party and state parties. Bob Biersack, an analyst with the Center for Responsive Politics, says such arrangements allow parties to accept more from each donor. Broyhill said he expects the money to help fund the ground game in North Carolina. Staff writer Rick Rothacker contributed.