Republicans pick Jacksonville as alternative convention site
The Republican National Committee has chosen Jacksonville, Fla., to host part of this summer’s party convention, after largely abandoning the city of Charlotte, N.C., over disagreements on coronavirus-related crowd restrictions.
The decision on Thursday was expected and followed a nationwide search for a new host city. Business aspects of the convention will still take place in North Carolina, but Jacksonville will host the celebratory aspects of the election-year affair.
“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. “Not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump’s heart as his home state, but it is crucial in the path to victory in 2020. We look forward to bringing this great celebration and economic boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months.”
Party officials have been scrambling to find a new convention location after President Trump tweeted last week that the GOP is “now forced to seek another” location other than Charlotte, N.C., to host the convention, which is scheduled to start on Aug. 24.
The president and Republican officials were angered after Goy Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said he wasn’t prepared to guarantee the RNC a full-fledged convention with an arena packed with party officials, delegates, and activists due to health concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. North Carolina is among at least 10 states that have seen a spike in new coronavirus cases since Memorial Day.
Following the president’s announcement, the RNC quickly considered least 10 cities in eight states as possible contenders to host the celebratory parts of the convention – including the president’s acceptance of the nomination – with teams visiting most of the cities. And, early last week, the Republican governors of Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee quickly made pitches to hold portions of the convention in their states.
Jacksonville was likely attractive to GOP officials because it was the only city under consideration with a Republican mayor. Lenny Curry – a former state Republican Party chair – made a strong pitch for the convention after problems first arose with Charlotte – saying that the city had successfully held a UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 13. The mayor offered up the same venue for the Republican convention.
“Today’s announcement is exciting news for the city of Jacksonville,” Curry said. “I enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to highlight everything our city has to offer, along with the tremendous economic impact. We look forward to hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention for all delegates and guests to enjoy.”
Meanwhile, the RNC’s executive committee voted on Wednesday night to dramatically scale back the business aspects of the convention, which are still going to be held in Charlotte.
The committee moved cities to limit the in-person participation in Charlotte to just 336 delegates, far less than the more than 2,500 who normally would attend. The committee also voted to make no changes to the 2016 Republican convention platform.
The executive committee voted last week to keep the mechanics of the convention in Charlotte, which was selected two years ago by the party as the site of the 2020 convention. The party is contractually obligated to conduct some of its convention business in Charlotte.
With 29 electoral votes at stake, Florida is the largest of the general election battleground states. Trump narrowly won the state four years ago, but the most recent polling in the state indicates presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden with the edge over the president.
While the president and the GOP remained firm on staging a mostly unchanged, in-person convention, Biden and Democratic Party officials have entertained holding a scaled-down confab or even a virtual convention. Earlier this spring they pushed back the date of their Milwaukee convention from mid-July to Aug. 17.