Why Charlotte was picked for the Republican National Convention in 2020
The 2020 Republican National Convention will be held Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, officials announced Monday, giving organizers less than two years to raise $70 million for the event and prepare the city for tens of thousands of visitors.
The convention will take place at the Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte, where the Republican Party is expected to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. Other events tied to the convention are expected to be held throughout the region, possibly at venues such as Charlotte Motor Speedway, as organizers show off the Charlotte area.
Convention chair Toni Anne Dashiell said organizers will begin staffing the event in the weeks following the November election.
During the run-up to Charlotte’s selection by the RNC, Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, and other supporters contended the city can host Trump without supporting him or endorsing his positions. Speakers at Monday’s event, however, showered praise on the president and showed how tough it will be to separate politics from the convention events.
“We get to be front and center when we renominate Donald Trump and Mike Pence as president and vice president,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Concord Republican. “What an incredible record of achievement just in less than two short years.”
The Charlotte City Council narrowly backed hosting the RNC in July, voting 6-5 in favor after hearing for hours from impassioned speakers both for and against the gathering. Lyles championed the city’s bid for the RNC, which she predicted Monday would boost Charlotte’s image.
“This gets to be an opportunity to brag,” Lyles said Monday. “There will be a lot more folks here with cameras, and to write stories, and we hope it will bring in many of the corporations that participate in that process as well.”
The 2020 Democratic National Convention is scheduled for July 13-16. The DNC has narrowed its choices for host city to Miami Beach, Milwaukee or Houston, according to national media reports. The Tokyo Olympics, which will dominate TV for two weeks, start July 24.
“You don’t want to compete with them,” Dashiell said of the Olympics.
The announcement of the RNC 2020 date was delayed because of Hurricane Florence, the Observer reported last month. The Republican National Committee was expected to set the dates the weekend of Sept. 15.
Supporters believe the 2020 RNC will give the city a week in the national spotlight, like the 2012 DNC that nominated former President Barack Obama for his second term. The event drew thousands of politicians and national media members to Charlotte.
Opponents said the convention will draw a president whose administration has been extremely divisive and attract major protests and the threat of violence. They pointed to incidents like the white nationalist and alt-right rally in Charlottesville that left one counter-protester dead after a white supremacist drove through a crowd, and Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people” on both sides that day.
During the July city council debate, council member Braxton Winston called Trump an “avatar of white supremacy.” Winston was the only city council member who voted against the RNC to attend Monday’s event. He sat in the front row with council members Larken Egleston, Tariq Bokhari and Ed Driggs, who all voted yes, and former N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
“I still feel the same way, but it’s coming,” Winston said after the announcement. “This is about right now what this president represents, and it’s white supremacy...I’m not afraid to say what we’re experiencing right now as a country.”
A Republican National Committee spokeswoman could not immediately be reached.
The convention is expected to draw both protesters and a massive security presence. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney has said that he believes the department will be able to secure the RNC, with the help of officers from other departments and a $50 million federal security grant.
N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes predicted the convention will be a success in promoting Charlotte and the state. People with different points of view are welcome to express them, Hayes said, but he cautioned protesters looking to foment trouble not to come to Charlotte.
“I would greatly discourage anybody who has even the slightest notion of coming in simply to cause trouble, simply to call attention to themselves and their cause,” Hayes said. “They need to stay away.”
The convention dates will likely influence decisions about the school calendar. State law requires public school districts to open “no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26” and be done “no later than the Friday closest to June 11.”
That leaves Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools leaders with a choice between starting schools on the week most North Carolina districts will likely open, with the convention closing roads and creating disruptions, or waiting until Aug. 31 and having less time to work in the required instructional time.
Former Charlotte City Council member John Lassiter is CEO of the Charlotte RNC’s host committee. Fundraising efforts have already begun, to cover the nearly $64 million anticipated bill (The $70 million goal is to account for contingencies). Major costs will include $27.6 million for convention facilities, mostly for renovating Spectrum Center and then returning it to its current state; $8.4 million for event production; $2.4 million for office space; $1.2 million for headquarters hotel space; $1.8 million for hospitality; and $2.4 million for transportation services.
Dashiell, the convention organzier, said the host committee is progressing toward its $70 million goal but cited no specifics.
“It is moving forward just as planned,” she said.
The bulk of the host committee’s fundraising push is expected to start in the fourth quarter this year, according to the city’s bid, when the group hopes to raise $17.5 million. It’s a goal they plan to repeat through the following two quarters, securing the majority of the needed money and in-kind contributions a year ahead of the convention.
North Carolina is expected to be a battleground state in 2020. Obama won the state in 2008, then lost it to Mitt Romney in 2012. In 2016, Trump carried the state with 49.8 percent of the vote vs. 46.2 percent for Hillary Clinton.
Staff writer Ann Doss Helms contributed.