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Democratic National Convention organizers drop Charlotte speedway from itinerary

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Are Democrats giving up on the NASCAR vote?

Organizers of the Democratic National Convention announced Tuesday they are moving the CarolinaFest 2012 kickoff event on Labor Day from the Charlotte Motor Speedway to Uptown Charlotte, in the center of the city.

The Sept. 3 event had been billed by the Convention Host Committee, which is organizing the event, as a family day open to all comers ahead of the convention, which will take place Sept. 4-6, culminating in President Obama’s acceptance of the 2012 nomination at Bank of

Chris Graythen

GETTY IMAGES

First lady Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, Andrew Barry and his family give the command for, "Gentlemen, start your engines." on behalf of “Joining Forces,” a group that helps military families, prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20, 2011 in Homestead, Florida.

America Stadium.

Its original location at the speedway was viewed as a play by Democrats, and the Obama campaign, for NASCAR fans who might typically lean toward the Republican Party but could be peeled away in the critical swing states of North Carolina and neighboring Virginia.

Instead, the event will take place in Charlotte’s center city. Host committee officials said the change made sense for logistical reasons because it will be easier for people attending the convention to participate. (The committee is technically non-partisan, but its officials are working closely with the Democratic National Committee — they share office space — and the Obama campaign.)

“In order to facilitate public caucus meetings – and to maximize accessibility, transportation, and proximity of all guests – we have decided that moving CarolinaFest 2012 to Uptown Charlotte is the best way to achieve that goal,” Dan Murrey, the host committee’s executive director, said in a statement.

The timing of the change is a bit awkward considering that the committee had chosen an official stock car for the convention and promised it would drive a lap at the opening event. Murrey said the other elements of the event remain unchanged, with live music, speakers and family oriented activities on the docket.

The convention organizers insisted that money is not a factor in the change of venues, even though the committee has struggled to raise $37 million in private donations under new rules imposed by the Obama campaign that bans corporate cash.

Obama won Virginia and North Carolina in 2008, eking out a victory in the Tar Heel state by just 14,000 votes. Holding on to both this year presents a significant challenge, especially in North Carolina where voters recently endorsed a ban on same sex marriage just days before Obama voiced his own support for gay marriage.

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