Charlotte won its second national political convention in a decade Friday, kicking off two years of planning, fundraising and anticipation.
The Republican National Committee on Friday formally awarded Charlotte the 2020 party event, pushing Charlotte into a small group of cities that will have held both major party conventions.
The vote capped a dramatic week in which the Charlotte City Council agreed to host the convention Monday by a single vote. Four Democrats joined two Republicans in support. Five Democrats voted no.
“We could not be more excited,” North Carolina GOP Chair Robin Hayes said in a statement. “Today’s announcement is a testament to the strong leadership in Charlotte that has followed a long North Carolina tradition of putting the needs and opportunities of our people before politics.”
But politics was behind the contentiousness surrounding the council decision.
More than 100 people debated the convention publicly and passionately before Monday’s council vote. Through it all, Democratic Mayor Vi Lyles championed the event and urged people to put partisanship aside.
Asked Friday if she would have started the bidding process had she known the opposition it would spark, she said she would have. She said the city would have had the same debate, even if the outcome may have been different.
“I think we would have done exactly what we did,” she told reporters. “The outcome I can’t project.”
Friday’s RNC vote means Charlotte will host its second national political convention eight years after finding itself the site of Democrat Barack Obama’s nomination for a second term.
Lyles and council members who joined her in Austin said they’re confident that law enforcement officials can provide security for the convention and the city.
“We’ve got two years to plan for protests we know will happen,” said Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt, a Democrat.
Republican council member Ed Driggs agreed.
“We were very clear-headed about the political climate we’re in right now,” Driggs said. “We felt the benefits to the city outweigh the risks.”
Businessman Ned Curran co-chairs the host committee with Doug Lebda, the founder of Lending Tree, and attorney Walter Price. Former council member John Lassiter will be the host committee’s CEO and executive director.
Curran said the committee is “way ahead of schedule” in reaching its $70 million fundraising goal. In 2012 Democrats fell $10 million short of theirs. Duke shareholders footed about $6 million of that after the company was not repaid.
Lassiter told reporters the host committee already has raised “more than 10 percent” of what they need.
Other Republicans applauded the RNC’s selection.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Saul Anunzis, Michigan’s former GOP chairman. “It’ll make sense politically for us.”
GOP National Chair Ronna McDaniel complimented not only Charlotte but Lyles.
“I love that it’s the Queen City and we have Mayor Vi Lyles — you are a queen,” McDaniel said. “We look forward to Charlotte being center stage when the Republican Party nominates Donald Trump and Mike Pence for a second term.”
“To be one of only a few American cities to host conventions from both political parties is a testament to the people of our state,” Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s former governor and Charlotte’s former mayor, said in a statement.
The convention is expected to involve not only uptown Charlotte but venues around the region.
“Every venue in the region is in play, and part of the attraction,” Curran said.