Charlotte is the front-runner to host the 2020 Republican National Convention — because no one else wants to

Charlotte is the front-runner to host the 2020 Republican National Convention — because no one else wants to
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I don’t blame Charlotteans for getting “bid fatigue.”

Our city likes to play host, and we’re always throwing our hat in the ring for major national events.

Sometimes it pays off. Charlotte landed the PGA Championship last year and will host the NBA All-Star Game next year.

Other times, we swing and miss. Charlotte won’t be home to Amazon’s second headquarters city, and the Super Bowl continues to tell us no.

Charlotte’s bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention falls solidly into the “likely” category.

I believe the city has better-than-even odds to be welcoming President Trump in two years.

In mid-February, Mayor Vi Lyles — a Democrat — announced that the city would explore options for hosting the next RNC. After a few weeks of discussion, Charlotte formally submitted a bid in early April.

It’s unclear what exactly is in the bid. But Charlotte now finds itself as the frontrunner to host the convention.

Mayor Vi Lyles

Why? No other cities seem to want it.

The Republican National Committee started contacting potential host cities in January, and its site selection group met in January. Immediately, they ran into problems. The RNC extended the deadline for cities to submit bids to host the 2020 convention. Charlotte only got its bid in under this extended deadline.

No other cities have publicly said they have submitted bids for the Republican convention.

This is super unusual.  At this point in 2014 — two years before the last conventions — there were at least eight cities competing to play host:

  • Cleveland
  • Cincinnati
  • Columbus
  • Denver
  • Kansas City
  • Dallas
  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix

They sent delegations to the RNC winter meeting in early 2014, wining and dining and showing off what they had to offer. Several of the cities ultimately dropped out of the process. But most of them had already lined up corporate support to pay for the convention.

By June 2014, two finalist cities had been named. The actual selection usually happens in February of the year before the convention.

Everything is different this year. The increasingly polarized political environment makes it risky for cities to be seen as throwing giveaways to the national parties. President Trump adds a new layer of uncertainty and risk.

Cities, mostly governed by Democrats, have been hesitant to show enthusiasm for a Republican convention.


Trump speaking in Charlotte. Photo via Facebook

That works in Charlotte’s favor now. A convention bid isn’t something that comes up last-minute.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties generally want to drum up multiple bids and play cities off each other to get concessions and free stuff.

For the 2020 convention, the RNC wants the following, according to a request for proposals released to several media outlets:

  • Free use of a large arena (like Charlotte’s Spectrum Center)
  • 75,000 square feet of meeting space (Charlotte’s convention center has 126,000 square feet of meeting space)
  • 40,000 square feet of office space
  • 250,000 square feet for media work areas

In return, the host city gets $100 million-plus in economic impact and the eyes of the world for a few days.

Of course, Charlotte knows it can host a major political convention. The city did so in 2012 when President Obama accepted his nomination for a second term in office. Since then, Charlotte has become only more capable, adding hotel rooms and office space in the center city.

Michelle Obama speaking at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Steve Bott via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Expect Charlotte business leaders to rally behind the bid.

For the 2012 convention, the city put together a host committee made up of civic and business leaders. Then-Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers took the lead, and his company provided a $10 million line of credit and donated office space in an Uptown tower to the convention effort. The company ended up having to eat the $10 million.

Business leaders have yet to be approached for the 2020 effort. But expect them to rally behind the convention.

Bank of America chief global technology and operations executive Cathy Bessant said she hasn’t been asked about it, but said the prospect of another convention is a big deal.

“Regardless of the event, a convention is a world stage,” she said. “Political leanings don’t matter.”

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