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Courting the DNC: $125,000 for first date

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By Jim Morrill

Days before a Democratic selection panel checks out Charlotte as a site for its 2012 national convention, local organizers said "pursuit costs" could top $125,000.

And Mayor Anthony Foxx repeated his hope Wednesday that if the city wins the convention, it could raise the more than $40 million needed with no tax money, just as Denver did in hosting the 2008 convention.

"That's an example I would like to emulate," Foxx said during a briefing for local elected officials.

A site selection committee is scheduled to visit Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday. This week, it was in Minneapolis. Cleveland and St. Louis are also in the running.

The Democratic National Committee is expected to pick a site by the end of the year.

Duke Energy has contributed $100,000 toward pursuing the convention. Among other things, that paid for hiring two consultants, including the DNC's former executive director and its national spokeswoman.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, supported by taxes on hotel rooms and prepared foods, has contributed an additional $25,000 in staff time and travel. CEO Tim Newman said that's in line with what it spent to land this spring's National Rifle Association convention and comparable events.

"The CRVA isn't going to be doing anything different than they would do normally in pursuing a convention," Foxx told the Observer.

He called the budget for getting the convention "a bit of a moving target" that will probably go higher.

Asked if there are other pledges, he said "we have a very supportive corporate community."

Duke spokesman Tom Williams said that was the plan behind the seed money.

"Clearly, we would expect other private sources to step up," he said. "But you have to get the ball rolling. And that was the intent of that gift."

Of the more than a dozen elected officials at Wednesday's briefing, only two were Republicans. Both Rep. Thom Tillis of Cornelius said he supports the effort, which city officials say could bring up to $200 million in economic development - as long as it doesn't cost taxpayers.

"It will come down to the financing package," he said. "If there was a significant amount of taxpayer dollars required, either from the state or the city, it would be problematic. Any time you can spur economic development and shine a light on our region, it's a good thing."

Clearly, Charlotte leaders like the city's chances.

On one of a series of slides Foxx showed officials was a quote from Washington political analyst Charlie Cook, reacting to the selection of the final four cities.

"I'd be astonished if Charlotte were picked," Cook told the Observer last month. "Not gonna happen."

Said Foxx: "Charlie Cook has given us pretty good billboard material. One of my ambitions in this effort is to respond to Charlie."

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October 7, 2015
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