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Hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention will not define Charlotte or change the city’s values, Mayor Vi Lyles told an audience at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, where four of the five mayoral candidates spoke.
Lyles was responding to a question raised about the potential for violence during the convention, especially in light of President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and two mass killings in recent days – one in El Paso, Texas, and another hours later in Dayton, Ohio.
“All in all, the RNC is going to bring 70,000 people to about five blocks of this city,” Lyles said. “They’re going to go into our Spectrum Arena, they’re going to have a meeting for three days, and they’re going to leave. This is our city. We define what we are about.”
Lyles said security at the convention will be “very, very different” but didn’t elaborate.
Some of the Mayor’s Democratic challengers took issue with the city’s decision to bid for the RNC, a decision spearheaded by Lyles. The mayor and other city leaders have since condemned some of Trump’s divisive statements, most notably in a resolution approved by City Council.
Joel Odum, one of the four challengers, said the resolution was too little too late.
“The last time I checked, the president of the United States was racist, xenophobic and homophobic way before the RNC and 2020,” he said. “So I think it’s a little too late to say, ‘Well, we wanna give a resolution.’ We should have put people first and not money.”
Lucille Puckett, another Democrat seeking the office, expressed similar concerns.
“We knew…going after the RNC what our current leader was about,” Puckett said in reference to Trump. She said hosting the convention was “not the proper decision.”
In addition to the economic benefits Charlotte will get from hosting the convention, Lyles has said previously that hosting the convention also shows that Charlotte, which votes overwhelmingly for Democrats, can be politically inclusive. At the breakfast forum, she expressed similar sentiments, even as she said, “Yes, we knew what kind of president we had.”
“You get elected, and you have a number of people that vote for you,” she said. “But once you sit in that chair, you have to remember you represent every person in this city. It’s a real difference from campaigning to governance.”
Editor’s note: This report is based on a video recording of the breakfast forum. Click here to view the video.