North Carolina

RNC 2020 bus leaves Charlotte for 3-day road trip through North and South Carolina

Organizers of the 2020 Republican National Convention set off Tuesday on a three-day, two-state bus tour that begins the one-year countdown to Charlotte’s second national political convention in less than a decade.

The tour kicked off Tuesday morning in uptown Charlotte, with the RNC 2020 tour bus parked outside the NASCAR Hall of Fame building, at the corner of Caldwell Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Marcia Lee Kelly, the convention’s president and CEO, labeled Charlotte “a non-partisan rock star” for hosting Republicans after the 2012 Democratic National Convention, a feat she said no other U.S. city had done in such a short span.

The host committee, headed by former Charlotte City Council member John Lassiter, aims to recruit 8,000 volunteers and raise more than $70 million for the convention. About 130,000 people work in the hotels, restaurants and other industries that will benefit, said Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

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On the 1,000-mile bus tour, organizers will meet with business and civic leaders, and reach out to young people in North and South Carolina. President Donald Trump won both states in 2016.

Organizers of the 2020 Republican National Convention began a three-day bus tour of the Carolinas on Tuesday. Bruce Henderson

Lassiter said about one-quarter of the 8,000 volunteers needed have already been signed up. He expects more than half the convention volunteers will ultimately come from Charlotte, even though voters in the city lean heavily Democratic.

“When you start walking circles around the city, you end up with a lot more opportunity,” he said. “Most folks will (drive), so they could come from Winston-Salem, Greenville (S.C), from Columbia, maybe some from Raleigh.

“Our volunteers will really come all across the region in two states. A lot of folks are very civic-minded and they’ll see this as as an opportunity to promote the city that they love. We’ll kind of get into that space with people who work golf tournaments, who work big sporting events, because they think it’s real important to be part of what this city’s all about.”

Dan Murrey, former CEO of the Democratic host committee in 2012, recalls what happened when the call for volunteers went out.

“We opened up volunteer recruitment roughly in March and we were supposed to raise 7,000 or 7,500 volunteers,” he said. “Within two months we had 15,000 — we had to cut if off because we didn’t have enough for those people to do.”

Rather than turn volunteers away, Murrey said, Democrats put them to work at community service events such as tending community gardens and rehabilitating neighborhood playgrounds. Those events turned out to be some of the best parts of the convention, he said.

“It was the first time Charlotte had hosted something like that, and everybody recognized that this was going to be a big stage Charlotte was going to be on and they wanted to present it well,” he said.

The Republican convention will kick off at Spectrum Arena on Aug. 24, 2020. It’s expected to draw 50,000 visitors, and organizers say it will have a $200 million direct and indirect economic impact on the city.

Bruce Henderson writes about transportation, emerging issues and interesting people for The Charlotte Observer. His reporting background is in covering energy, environment and state news.