Charlotte, N.C. — The Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday that it will hold its 2012 convention to nominate a presidential candidate in Charlotte. The convention is expected to draw up to 35,000 delegates, politicians and journalists to the city.
"Our effort needs to be a nationwide effort. It needs to be an effort where we are reaching out to people all across the country at every income level to really support this convention and make it America's convention," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat.
The convention will be held the week of Sept. 3, 2012, and organizers have a lot of work to do between now and then. They need to raise about $40 million to get the Queen City ready.
Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy and co-chair of the Charlotte 2010 committee, said he got the good news via text message.
"The economic and reputational significance of being chosen for this honor cannot be overstated,” Rogers said.
Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine said the decision to choose Charlotte over Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis just felt right.
"As we worked closely with the four cities, we just felt a real comfort level with Charlotte," he said.
In an e-mail to backers, Kaine answered speculation that Obama would choose a different running mate for 2012, saying the party was looking forward to nominating both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for a second term.
A personally popular incumbent, Obama is virtually assured of being nominated again; he faces no serious primary challenger.
North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker said the announcement says good things about North Carolina politically and economically. He said it confirms President Obama's commitment to retain the state's 15 electoral votes. Obama narrowly won the state in 2008, ending a drought for Democrats that began after the 1976 presidential race.
State Republicans aren't worried about any political advantage Democrats may gain from the convention, said House Speaker Thom Tillis.
"There's already been talks about a secondary convention bringing other people there, which is even more benefit to the local area," Tillis said.
Robin Hayes, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, issued a pointed statement Tuesday, saying, "We welcome the Democrats to Charlotte, but they must answer for their misguided policies that have led to more debt, more spending and more government.”
A week before the convention, Republicans will nominate their candidate in Tampa, Florida, another important presidential state, after a primary fight to sort out a potentially crowded Republican field.
The economic impact is expected to be more than $150 million based on the experience of past cities, Charlotte's Chamber of Commerce said.
Sean O'Brien, a partner in Vida Restaurant, which is located a block away from the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, is looking forward to the event.
"It should be great for the city. It should bring tons of traffic here and obviously put us on a national stage," he said.
Most Charlotte residents told WRAL News that they were excited by the announcement.
"I think it's really great for the city. We've had a lot of change in demographics over the last few years," resident Laura Camilo said. "I think people think of the South in general as very Republican cities, so I think, the fact that we are getting the Democratic Convention is kind of a new way to show that there's a lot of different kinds of people here."
After the announcement, politicians of all stripes chimed in with praise for the decision.
Gov. Bev Perdue said, "Today’s decision is fantastic news for North Carolina regardless of your political party."
Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) said she was "thrilled" for visitors who will enjoy southern hospitality.
First Lady Michelle Obama touched on that same notion in an e-mail to members of the Democratic National Committee soliciting ideas for planning the convention.
She praised Charlotte as one of the fastest-growing cities in the South and "home to innovative, hardworking folks with big hearts and open minds. And of course, great barbecue."
She signaled that the gathering would be "a grassroots convention for the people" and promised to finance the convention differently than has been done in the past but provided no specifics on either point.