Cover Story: DNC 2012 - Charlotte's chances

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The 2012 Democratic National Convention could be held right here in Charlotte.

We're one of four cities the Democrats are considering to host their national convention.

The Dems recognize President Obama faces serious challenges in the Midwest swing states, which he carried two years ago.  So, the committee picked three cities in the heartland -Minneapolis, St. Louis and Cleveland.

And they picked one in the Republican-friendly south - Charlotte.

In our Cover Story, how Charlotte made the cut and why the Democrats might pick us.

For Charlotte businessman Matt Sielsky, it's no question what having the Democrats in town would mean for him.

His restaurant, Matt's Chicago Dog, sits right across the street from the Charlotte Convention Center.  Ground zero, where a lot of the politicking would be.

Says Sielsky, "An event like that where there's that many people around.. just our proximity.. I could do our best to hide and they'll find us being so close."

Charlotte's never been this close to hosting a national political convention before.

But now all the infrastructure is here:  a downtown arena that can host it;  hotel space, we have 30,000 rooms in the metro area to accommodate the delegates and media; and direct flights to anywhere in the country.

Mayor Anthony Foxx, co-chair of the 2012 Host Committee says, "I think they made the right decision to choose Charlotte as a finalist for sure."

About ten cities submitted proposals to host the Democratic National Convention in two years.  It came down to us and three others.  Supposing all are equal at this point, why choose Charlotte?

"I accept your nomination for president of the United States."

When Democrats decided Denver two years ago it was strategic.  Before 2008 Colorado had voted Republican in all but three elections since World War 2.

Having the Democratic convention in town boosted party loyalty and paid off for the Democrats.  Barack Obama carried Colorado by ten percentage points.

Could the same be at work here?

The late Susan Burgess thought so, as she told us before her death.  "I would think that North Carolina.. the South would be very strategic. and I think that's part of our appeal," she said in an interview in September 2009.

As a member of city council and active in Democratic party hierarchy Burgess started campaigning for Charlotte two years ago.

What could hurt our chances?  Of the four cities in the running Charlotte is the smallest media market.

Charlotte has never hosted a national political convention before, all three others have.  And they are in the crucial Midwest an area of the country Democrats must win.

Cost is another downside.  Insiders say the uptown arena would need a $15 million upfit to be able to stage the convention.  And security might cost nearly that much.

But Mayor Foxx believes raising the money won't be a problem.  He says you're raising it from all over the country.  "In terms of whether the city can meet the technical requirements.. I don't have many doubts about that. I don't have any doubt."

Said Matt Sielsky of Matt's Chicago Dog, "It's great.  When we can get that many people in town and I don't care who you're voting for as you come in and spend money, we'll be smiling."

Skeptics said Charlotte would never land the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we know where that ended up.  Democrats are scheduled to visit the city this summer and make a decision by the end of the year.

There hasn't been a national political convention in the South since 1988.

Republicans have announced they'll be holding their convention in Tampa in 2012.

Officials estimate the city that gets the Democrats' nod could see an economic benefit of more that $250 million.

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