Debate Widens Over Whether Charlotte Should Host RNC

Jul 6, 2018

A debate is intensifying over whether Charlotte should host the 2020 Republican National Convention if it's chosen at the end of this month. The matter could come down to a city council vote this summer. 

The Republican National Committee meets in Austin, Texas, in about two weeks to pick a site for the 2020 convention.  Charlotte and Las Vegas reportedly are the only cities that bid. Some other cities have said they aren't interested, citing costs and the likelihood of protests.

Some council members wonder if the city should host a convention led by President Donald Trump. Here he is addressing a crowd in Columbia South Carolina June 25.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE

Those are also among the concerns that some Charlotte City Council members are raising.  But there's more to the debate: Council member Lawana Mayfield says she'll vote against hosting the convention because of what she calls Republicans' hostility to people of color.

"Because I don't think it's a conversation that falls just on economics. It is a moral conversation that we need to have as far as what type of city are we," Mayfield said Friday.

The debate widened Monday when at-large council member Braxton Winston invited citizens to weigh in. In a Facebook video, he said some constituents have told him they don't think the values of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party fit Charlotte. Since then, council members have been flooded with messages on all sides, Winston said.

"I would say there are more no's than there are yeses. I think that's pretty clear. But there are more yeses, honestly, than I expected from people that I didn't expect to hear it from," he said in an interview Friday.

For example, Winston said, some conservative Republicans don't want the convention here, and some liberal Democrats do.  

"Basically what it really comes down to is do people want Donald Trump to come into this city and do we want to host Donald Trump?" Winston said. "This is about what this president brings, and people are divided."

Winston hasn't come right out and said he'll vote no. But he says he wonders if the convention will bring economic benefits.  He also worries that President Trump is too divisive, and could bring violent protests.

Mayor Vi Lyles announced the city's bid in February, calling it a (quote) "wonderful opportunity."  But the council still will need to approve a contract with the party and the local host committee. That would spell out who's responsible for what and how 50 million dollars in federal funds would be spent on police and security.

That's what happened in 2012 after the Democrats picked Charlotte. Tourism officials say that convention had a $163 million economic impact.

Democrats outnumber Republicans on the council 9 to 2. Altogether, at least four Democrats have raised concerns publicly.