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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three prominent Charlotte hotels were noticeably absent last week when convention organizers announced assignments to the 56 area hotels where delegates will stay.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dunhill and Hotel Sierra are plush lodgings, only a short walk from the main convention venue at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Why was that?

The reason is simple: Delegates aren't the only convention guests who'll need rooms.

The three hotels, all under contract to the Democratic National Convention Committee, are expected to be used for donors and other VIPs, including prominent Democratic politicians.
Premier hotel rooms are among the perks the host committee is offering to convention donors and fundraisers. Raise $1 million and you get lodging, platinum credentials, concierge services and VIP tickets to pre-convention events

There's also the issue of cost.

According to convention officials, the standard room at delegate hotels starts at around $99 a night. Most range between $150 and $200 per night.

According to its website, rooms at the Ritz can cost more than $300.

Counties, towns hoping to score guests later

Some Charlotte hoteliers are already giddy over hosting delegations come September.

University City Partners reported in its e-newsletter that the area landed more than a third of the 56 delegations, including Indiana.

At the Hampton Inn, it took only a couple of hours for sales director Terri Gaeta to change her cellphone ringtone to the Indiana state song. I've even mailed everyone on our team the history of Indiana's Democrats! the newsletter quoted Gaeta as saying.

In Cabarrus County, where 11 delegations will reside, Visit Cabarrus predicts an economic impact an estimated $6 million.

None of the 6,500 delegates was assigned to the Lake Norman area. But that didn't stop Visit Lake Norman from issuing a news release.

Lake Norman hopes to lure some of the thousands of media, convention speakers and other guests still to be assigned rooms. Currently, 12 of the 19 properties in Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville have 80 percent of their inventory contracted with the convention.

South Carolina also failed to land any state delegations. But hoteliers in York County are hoping that guests who do end up there will stay longer than delegates.

We're getting different types of people, Mary Francis Morton, Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau coordinator, told the Rock Hill Herald. Celeste Smith

New convention chair and former Miss USA are dating

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, named last week to chair the convention, already has at least one Carolinas tie.

The mayor has been dating Lu Parker, an Anderson, S.C., native and former Miss South Carolina USA and Miss USA.

She worked as a broadcaster in Charleston and San Antonio before moving to Los Angeles' KTLA-TV. As a weekend news anchor, she was still reporting on the mayor in 2009, three months after she'd begun dating him. She was later reassigned. Jim Morrill

So far, there's no end in sight for the 'CH' factor

Will the convention finally put an end to Charlotte, South Carolina?

In a blog for WCNC-TV, Jeremy Markovich found recent examples of media confusion over which side of the state line the Queen City is in.

This week, he wrote, the News-Courier of Athens, Ala., referred to the Democratic convention in Charlotte, S.C.

Last month, a news release from the U.S. Travel Association alluded to the major party conventions in Charlotte, S.C., and Tampa, Fla. And Little Rock's KTHV used Charlotte, S.C. as the dateline for a story on the S.C. primary.

Like the CH factor that confuses Charlotte with Charleston and Charlottesville, it's a problem that may not go away.

During the S.C. primary, London's BBC interviewed an Observer reporter about the race. The interviewer introduced the Observer as the biggest newspaper in South Carolina. Jim Morrill

Murrey looking forward to this kind of test

Bidding is open to determine the convention's official barbecue sauce.

In order to get involved, convention officials say businesses must be listed in the vendor directory. That's the only way to get information about the bid and submit a proposal. Go to www.charlottein2012.com for vendor directory details. Makers must tout the Carolinas' three regional styles: vinegar (Eastern North Carolina), tomato-based (Western and Piedmont) and mustard-based (South Carolina.)

Folks also are wondering how the vote will go down.

Says Dan Murrey, executive director of the host committee:

I love the food from this region - I even smoke my own pork - so I understand very well how imperative it is that we select three barbecue sauces that truly represent the flavor of the Carolinas. ...Needless to say it will be a challenge ... , but I think I speak for my entire team when I say that we are looking forward to the taste test. Celeste Smith



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