Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HuffPost's contest winners will blog from Charlotte and Tampa

Want to win an expense-paid trip ... to Charlotte? How 'bout Tampa?

The Huffington Post is running a contest to choose up to 24 "citizen journalists" to cover the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Half will cover each convention -- the GOP is meeting in Tampa, the Dems in Charlotte.

According to HuffPost political writer Howard Fineman, winners get airfare, five nights in a hotel, a per diem and access to convention work sites.

"The winners, " he wrote, "also will get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see history in the making, and report on it as it happens for one of the world's leading news sites."

Details are on the Huffington Post website.

The bloggers would be part of the organization's "Off the Bus" program that in 2008 attracted 10,000 amateur journalists. One who made an impact: Mayhill Fowler. She was the one who reported Barack Obama's controversial remarks at a San Francisco fundraiser about Pennsylvania voters who "cling to guns or religion."

Maria David

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Here's 3 celebs likely to come to Charlotte

Which celebrities will make it to Charlotte for the convention?

Well, you have to figure that those named last week as national co-chairs to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign would be good bets to be here.

Politicians, natch, make up more than half of those on the list of 35.

But the co-chairs also include actress Eva Longoria (above, John Shearer/Getty Images for VF), one of the stars of "Desperate Housewives" and a leading Obama supporter and fundraiser in the Latino community - a group of voters that, according to Time magazine's current cover story, could decide the presidential election.

Another co-chair who might be seen around town come September: Caroline Kennedy. The daughter of JFK and Jackie is an author, lawyer, and president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Representing both Hollywood and Washington on the list: Kalpen Modi, better known as the actor Kal Penn. He's a former White House staffer. And he starred in TV's "House"; the award-winning film "The Namesake," about an Indian-Amercan family; and the Harold & Kumar big screen stoner comedies.

Politicos on the co-chair list include Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
The only North Carolinian on the list is retired teacher Ann Cherry, who taught music in Eastern North Carolina public schools for 30 years. She's a volunteer leader with the Obama campaign - one of five volunteers from key battleground states to make the co-chairs list.

Tim Funk

Friday, February 24, 2012

N.C. Democrats open Charlotte office for DNC

N.C. Democrats are opening their first office in Charlotte, in part to piggy back on the Democratic National Convention.

State party officials will formally open the 1st Ward office on March 17, the day they're set to hold a Charlotte fundraiser.

"The convention being in Charlotte is an unprecedented opportunity for North Carolina Democrats," says party spokesman Walton Robinson, "and we intend to use it to get people engaged, organized and ready to do the heavy lifting it will take to ... keep North Carolina in our column this November."

And, he adds, "We are going to go after Pat McCrory right in his own backyard."

McCrory, Charlotte's former mayor, is running for governor.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

1988 Convention head will speak in Charlotte

Don Fowler, who ran the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, will be a featured speaker at a N.C. Democratic Party fundraiser in Charlotte next month.

Fowler, a Columbia businessman who teaches at the University of South Carolina, will join Democratic gubernatorial candidates at the St. Patrick's Day event at the Crown Plaza hotel.

Fowler, a former chair of the national and S.C. Democratic parties, was an adviser to Charlotte's effort to land the 2012 Democratic Convention, which kicks off Sept. 4.

In 1988 he was the man who ran the convention that nominated Michael Dukakis.

"You have to try to define what you think the party is," he said at the time, "and then devise what is basically a combination of theatrical and political techniques to convey that." Jim Morrill

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obama campaign chief: N.C. vote 'key'

This wooing of North Carolina by top Obama operatives -- from the White House, the Cabinet and the re-election campaign -- is getting serious.

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden will join his wife, Jill Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in Thomasville to promote the role of community college in re-training workers.

On Saturday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be in Charlotte to give the keynote at the annual gathering of the N.C. chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest LGBT civil rights organization.

On March 2, First Lady Michelle Obama will be Charlotte and Raleigh to raise money for the Democratic National Convention and the president's North Carolina campaign effort.

And speaking of the Obama campaign, national campaign manager Jim Messina (pictured at right) was in Charlotte and Durham on Tuesday to update Democratic National Convention planners on the campaign and, with senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, to reach out to students at N.C. Central University and other historically black colleges.

The Observer got some phone time with Messina, who said that N.C. voters should also expect to see more of President Obama in the Tar Heel State.

“He’s going to be here, I would assume, multiple times between now and November,” Messina said.

Messina also took Observer questions on everything from the campaign's efforts to re-win North Carolina's 15 electoral votes to the importance of the youth vote to the possible awkwardness of President Obama giving his acceptance speech in a stadium that carries the name of a bank he and other Democrats have criticized.

On how the Obama campaign is banking on having North Carolina in its column: “We put the convention in Charlotte in part because North Carolina is such an important piece of our map to get to 270 electoral votes. There are many ways to get there, but we view North Carolina as one of the key ways.”

On using the Democratic convention to boost the N.C. campaign: “(Denver in 2008) was the first time we ever used the convention to organize locally and excite our supporters and volunteers. We’ve already seen just incredible enthusiasm on the ground across North Carolina about hosting the convention, about really putting Charlotte on a world stage and showing the best that North Carolina has to offer. We think that will have political benefits as well as our supporters and volunteers get incredibly involved in the campaign.”

On the possibility that some Charlotte voters might get inconvenienced -- by traffic jams, closed streets, etc. -- during convention week: "I think people – Democrats, Republicans and independents – can all agree that having the convention in Charlotte is good for North Carolina and will be a great showcase. Part of why we decided to move the convention outside on the final night is to get as many North Carolinians as possible to be able to go to the convention, see the president, hang out and just experience this amazing thing. We didn’t just want it to be delegates across the country. We are very excited about the final night, doing it in the stadium with 74,000 screaming people.”

On whether it prove awkward for President Obama to give his acceptance speech in Bank of America Stadium at a time when he and other Democrats have been critical of BoA and other banks: "No, I think people understand that we are renting a stadium for one day to have a political convention. And I think people understand very clearly what that’s about.”

On whether the president talked with N.C. Gov Bev Perdue, who is lagging in the polls, before she made her decision not to run for re-election: “No, he did not. She answered that question last week. She did not talk to the White House or the campaign before she made her decision.”

On whether he's hoping that some other heavyweight Democrats will get in the governor's race to challenge Republican Pat McCrory: "No, I mean our plans haven’t changed. We look forward to working with whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is. We’ve got to build our own campaign and build the best grassroots campaign in political history and that’s what we’re working on.”

On whether the Obama campaign will be able, during a time of daunting job prospects for young people, to match its 2008 record of getting the support of 72 percent of N.C. voters 18-29 years: “Look, we are going to organize and work for every single vote. Part of why I’m in (Durham on Tuesday) I’m kicking off our 'Greater Together' campaign (for young voters) at North Carolina Central. We’re doing events across the country. We are having a kind of separate branded major investment in youth organizing called 'Greater Together,' which we are very excited about. We have real excitement and enthusiasm across the country. You know, if you’re a college student and this is the first time you’re old enough to vote and your brothers and sisters started this thing and helped elect President Obama, they’re going to finish it.”

On whether the Obama campaign will target newcomers to North Carolina: “We are going to look at every single way we can to get to 50.1% of the vote. We’re not going to take anything for granted. We’re not going to assume the state has changed or hasn’t changed. We’re going to try to talk to everyone we can. Here’s what is true, though: We are the only campaign (in the state). We basically never shut down. You can see in North Carolina (that) we continue to organize, we continue to grow our volunteer base. This campaign is going to be, at some point, a game about turnout and persuasion. So we’re building the kind of grassroots organization that can turn out our voters. You saw some of that – not from us, but from Democrats in 2011 and we’re going to expand and build on that.”

Tim Funk

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Charlotte news media gearing up for DNC

NetNewsCheck, which covers the business of local digital media, has taken a thorough look at how Charlotte's news media are using social media and local partnerships as they plan for September's Democratic National Convention.

For example, says the story, -- a TV site by the Observer's news partner -- plans to let Charlotte residents know which streets to avoid during convention week.

Also covered: Doings at WSOC and WBTV Web sites and The Observer's partnership with such local online news sites as, which covers Charlotte's African American community. Tim Funk

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rogers personally hires -- and pays -- staffer to help raise cash for convention

As co-chair of the Charlotte host committee, Jim Rogers has a lot invested in making sure the Democratic convention is a success.

And since July, he’s invested even more.

That’s when Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, hired a full-time staffer to help him raise money for the convention. She works for Rogers, not for the host committee, which is charged with raising nearly $37 million for the convention.

"Jim Rogers hired someone to assist his DNC fundraising work out of his own pocket," says Duke spokesman Tom Williams. "Their focus is on … meetings and calls with contributors, scheduling and other pre-work that goes into this fundraising effort. The intent is to also maximize the value of his time spent in this effort since (Rogers) has responsibilities to Duke Energy and other business activities."

He declined to give the staffer’s name.

Jim Morrill