- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., is shaping up to be a rickety display of party unity, with labor boycotts, fundraising shortfalls, scheduling changes, official snubs, a major gay-rights embarrassment, a sex scandal and a Republican resurgence in the host state.

The latest setback for President Obama’s renominating party is the cancellation of the convention’s kickoff event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Labor Day, as organizers contend with a fundraising deficit reported to be $27 million.

“To be sure, the optics are bad when these sorts of negative stories dominate the news coverage of the lead-up to the convention,” said John Dinan, professor of political science at Wake Forest University.

Dan Murrey, executive director of the Charlotte 2012 Convention host committee, said logistics rather than costs were behind the decision to cancel the speedway event. Organizers are moving the first-day activities, dubbed CarolinaFest, to Charlotte. The speedway is about 20 miles outside of town.

“While we regret having to move CarolinaFest away from our great partners at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the City of Concord, we are thrilled with the opportunity that comes with hosting this event in Uptown Charlotte,” Mr. Murrey said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

This is the second reshuffling of the convention’s schedule.

In January, planners announced that they were shortening the convention from the traditional four days to three to make room for CarolinaFest, intended as a celebration of “the Carolinas, Virginia and the South,” on Sept. 3, the Monday of convention week.

Bloomberg reported this week that the host committee has raised less than $10 million, far short of its $36.6 million goal, although a convention spokeswoman insisted that fundraising is “right on track.”

The party has banned corporate contributions, making fundraising a tougher slog. In 2008, corporations such as AT&T, Union Pacific and Google contributed more than half of the $61 million raised for the Democratic convention in Denver.

Exacerbating the Democrats’ fundraising problems is the selection of Charlotte, which has angered some unions over the city’s labor relations - North Carolina is a right-to-work state, and Charlotte has no unionized hotel workers.

Compounding those aggravating factors for unions, the city is moving its traditional Labor Day parade route, which in previous years passed through downtown, to a more obscure path on the city’s fringes.

City officials, citing security concerns for the changes, also have banned motor vehicles from the parade, preventing unions from showing off their floats, which typically make up about a third of the show. It could turn the city’s Labor Day parade into a protest march against the Democratic convention.

Labor unions contributed $8.6 million to the 2008 Democratic convention, but several construction unions have said they won’t donate to the Charlotte gathering, citing the anti-union atmosphere. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which donated $1 million four years ago, said it won’t contribute this year.

Mr. Dinan said the organizational problems, while a headache for Democrats, are just the tip of the party’s problems in North Carolina.

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