Charlotte to host Republicans in 2016? Just talk so far

efrazier@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 6, 2013 


Balloons swirl in the air following Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's acceptance speech at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 30, 2012, on the final day of the Republican National Convention.

STAN HONDA — AFP/Getty Images

When it comes to the notion of hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention, Democrats and Republicans in Charlotte agree on three points:

It would be nice to have. It’d be a lot of work. And it’s getting late if anybody wants to lay the groundwork for a serious bid.

Political and civic leaders say they hear talk around town about how the Queen City should make a play to host the 2016 gathering – especially in light of last year’s successful Democratic National Convention.

“That’s been the talk since the DNC was here,” Mayor Patsy Kinsey said Thursday. “We did such a good job with that, why shouldn’t we want to host the Republican convention?”

But nobody’s taken the lead and started organizing the way the late Susan Burgess did back in 2009, when she arranged a meeting with newly elected Mayor Anthony Foxx and others to talk about hosting the 2012 Democratic convention.

“I’ve heard talk,” said former Mecklenburg County Republican Party Chairman Lee Teague.

“But it’s been more like chatter than, ‘Let’s do this.’ ”

It’s not like Republican leaders haven’t taken notice of Charlotte.

The Republican National Committee held its 2013 Winter Meeting in Charlotte in January. A spokeswoman said then that the party would start soliciting requests from cities sometime this year and begin the convention site selection process in 2014.

“It’s always a possibility,” GOP Chairman Reince Priebus said at the time when asked about Charlotte’s chances. “North Carolina was good to us. And it’s a red state – all the more reason to look at Charlotte.” Republican Mitt Romney carried North Carolina in the 2012 presidential race, and Republicans took the governor’s office and retained both houses of the legislature.

It’s not too late

It’s not too late to make a run at the convention, said City Council member Warren Cooksey, who worked on the unsuccessful effort to bring the 2000 Republican convention to Charlotte.

He said when he worked on that effort, the group’s first organizational meeting was in June 1997, the search committee visited in 1998, and the party announced in late September or October of that year that they’d picked Philadelphia.

“That would mean we are a little behind in putting together an organizing committee” for 2016, Cooksey said. “You’d need to have something going on by early 2014 to be a viable candidate for it.”

He added that he’s seen a lot of “secondary support” for a 2016 bid, but no one has stepped forward to champion the effort.

Should Republican Edwin Peacock be elected mayor this fall, he presumably would be a pivotal player in any effort. Peacock said he hasn’t heard a lot of talk about chasing the Republican convention, but said some of the early signals from the national party suggest it could be well received.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. This has been a lot of smoke – and a lot of good smoke – toward Charlotte,” he said.

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