RNC 2020

Charlotte RNC fundraising efforts are ahead of schedule, host committee says

The Charlotte 2020 Host Committee for the Republican National Convention is building up its staff as officials prepare to start their big fundraising push — a task the group’s CEO said Monday is already ahead of schedule.

“We’re in a good place,” said John Lassiter, a Charlotte businessman and chief executive of the host committee. “We are way ahead of ‘12 and ahead of ‘16...I feel very good about our current position.”

Lassiter didn’t give exact figures, but said the earlier announcement of the 2020 RNC’s date and location, which traditionally takes place closer to the convention, has given them a head start.

“We’ve had about six months to kind of organize and plan and think through what we need to do,” he said. “Raising our $70 million goal will be accomplished well in advance of when we need the cash.”

The host committee needs to raise $70 million for the RNC, which will take place Aug. 24-27 at the Spectrum Center in uptown Charlotte. They’ve got 17,000 hotel rooms held for the convention, most within an 11-mile radius of uptown.

And the host committee has started building out its staff with a half-dozen new hires, including Towers Mingledorff, who will serve as chief operating officer. He’s previously held positions at the N.C. General Assembly and with Sen. Thom Tillis in Washington, D.C.

“To see it from a pretty high level was something I couldn’t pass up,” said Mingledorff, who most recently worked at software giant SAS. The Charlotte host committee has also hired Moore & Van Allen partner Scott Syfert as general counsel and Kim Bowman, who works at wealth management company Bowman Financial Group, as controller.

Lassiter said the host committee will have about 25 employees when fully staffed. For now, they’re working out of the NASCAR Plaza office building, but the group is seeking permanent space.

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As the convention draws nearer, the host committee will draw up contracts with the various hotels to formally reserve rooms. They’re also working with hotels under construction that plan to be open by 2020, such as the Grand Bohemian, but aren’t counting on those properties in case construction delays hold up their openings.

“What we’re trying not to do is invest too much time in a facility that may not be available,” said Lassiter. “We hope they are...but we’ve got to work as if that’s not going to happen until we know the timeline.”

They’ll also have to work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and federal law enforcement to draw up a security plan for the event, which could draw large protests. The city of Charlotte will receive a $50 million federal security grant. And Lassiter said they’ll start figuring out other challenges, such as how to move thousands of attendees around in a tightly controlled area with a heavy security cordon.

John Lassiter, CEO of the 2020 RNC Host Committee for Charlotte. Observer archives

The host committee executives plan to visit Cleveland, which held the 2016 RNC, to learn more about what to expect. And they’re keeping an eye on the 2019 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, which is also expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors.

The 2020 RNC is expected to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. At the Oct. 1 announcement of the convention dates, there was plenty of praise for the president from supportive congressmen and Republican party officials. That illustrates how difficult it could be to separate the politics of the event from the spectacle and parties that convention proponents, including Democratic Mayor Vi Lyles, are counting on to boost Charlotte’s image.

But Lassiter said the host committee, a 501(c)(3) will maintain separation.

“We’re not a political organization,” said Lassiter. “Our job is to make sure the event runs smoothly.....We take care of everything outside the arena, they take care of everything inside the arena. And we will jealously limit kind of crossing that line.”

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