CHARLOTTE — A movement to prevent Charlotte from being the location of the 2020 Republican National Convention is picking up steam in North Carolina. At least two of the Charlotte City Council’s Democratic members have made statements that they will oppose the convention. Other Democratic state and city leaders, including Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, back the event however.
The Republican National Convention will meet next week on July 17 to decide between Las Vegas and Charlotte as the site for their convention two years from now. Christian Holm in Lyles’ office confirmed to North State Journal on Tuesday that the trip was still on the mayor’s calendar and she still supports bringing conventions, including the RNC, to the city when possible.
President Barack Obama’s second Democratic National Convention was held in the same Spectrum Center in 2012. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the group that will travel with the mayor to Austin, said it is not interested in getting involved in the politics of these events.
“Our scope of work is about pursuing meetings and conventions that will have a local economic impact and keep people working,” CRVA communications director Laura White told the North State Journal. “We conducted an economic impact study after the 2012 DNC Convention, and it had an $163.6 million total impact with $91 million in direct spending.”
White said this was the “highest economic impact the city has ever seen from a single event on record,” and it had more than 35,000 attendees. Similar numbers of attendance are expected for an RNC event in 2020.
The 9-2 Democratic Party-controlled Charlotte City Council is less united on the GOP event though — especially one that will likely nominate President Donald Trump for a run at a second term.
LaWana Mayfield and Justin Harlow, Democratic members of the council, said they would oppose allowing the event to take place. Another Democratic council member, Braxton Winston, also expressed some concerns.
“Over the next couple weeks, before we as a council will make this decision whether or not to host this event, I hope we have a robust and organized public discussion,” Winston said in a video discussing both the likely positive economic impacts but also reasons the convention should not be allowed to take place, namely that constituents believe the “values of this party do not represent the spoken priorities of this city.”
Harlow announced his opposition on social media by saying, “I will not support the bid for the #RNC2020 in CLT. The only thing there is to be gained is money (economic impact) and too much to possibly be lost. I value differences in thought, but I’m not going to ignore the fact that this would not be a ‘convention as usual.’”
The opposition moved from the city council to wider Democratic ranks. In a joint statement, the Young Democrats of North Carolina and Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County said they “call on the leaders of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to reject any bid to bring the Republican National Convention to Charlotte in 2020” and that “[a]ny potential claim to an economic impact from the Convention will undoubtedly be outweighed by the civil unrest and reputational harm we would receive from welcoming Trump’s divisive rhetoric to our community.”
N.C. State House Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg), who represents Charlotte in the General Assembly, released a letter detailing his own objections.
“I appreciate the opportunities that benefited so many during the 2012 DNC. People need an extra dollar here or there, that extra shift as a server at a hotel, the boom to the car-for-hire business, having restaurants filled — all of that was a good thing,” Autry conceded.
But Autry said it was like “inviting someone into your home for four nights. Consider what sort of house guest we will have invited. … He has normalized white supremacy and neo-Nazism and emboldened those who subscribe to that kind of hateful ideology in our public square. He willfully has inflicted terror and trauma on children by separating them from their parents and caregivers — and caged them.”
This anti-convention letter from Autry initiated a response from across the country by Michael J. McDonald, the state chairman of the Nevada Republican Party. Since the other city in the running to receive the convention is Las Vegas, he was quick to suggest Nevada was having no such second thoughts.
“I have the biggest Democrat in the world in my state — former Sen. Harry Reid — and he has not made a comment about it,” McDonald said. He added that Democrats in his state “have not mentioned anything about it. They realize what this would mean for the city and the state. … I visited Charlotte last month, and I love Charlotte. But I know Vegas could do it better.”
McDonald also tweeted, “Las Vegas welcomes thousands of conventions and millions of visitors every year. Being considered to host the #RNC2020 is an honor.”
Democratic leaders in Charlotte were not entirely united against it though. State Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte tweeted, “As an elected official you can’t say you care about economic mobility and vote against the #RNC2020, because the families with the least, would benefit the most.”