Photo via Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons
President Donald Trump will deliver his acceptance speech as the Republican presidential nominee in Jacksonville, following a dispute between the president and the governor of North Carolina over COVID-19 precautions.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced Thursday night that the party will hold the late August convention at the 15,000-capacity VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena rather than in Charlotte, where the GOP spent two years planning for Trump’s 2020 re-election spectacle.
"We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville," McDaniel said in a press release. "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."
Florida Republicans have been lobbying for the move since Trump expressed displeasure that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, was "unable to guarantee" that coronavirus social-distancing requirements would be lifted before the Republican convention, scheduled for Aug. 24 to Aug. 27.
Instead, around 336 party delegates now are expected to meet in Charlotte for the first day of the event before heading to northeast Florida, where they are to meet up with more than 2,000 other delegates for three days of speeches and other activities.
The move to Jacksonville highlights the importance of Florida, a battleground state with a history of razor-thin elections, in Trump's effort to secure a second term. Both parties consider a Sunshine State win crucial for a White House victory.
Gov. RonDeSantis, a close ally of Trump, has repeatedly praised Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry for the city’s efforts to minimize the impact of the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19. DeSantis previously has noted that bringing the convention to Florida would be a tremendous benefit to the state economy, which suffered a major blow following massive shutdowns in March aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The governor called the move to Florida “an honor."
“Jacksonville is a great city that will showcase Florida’s energy, facilities, entrepreneurship and commitment to bring together the delegates of the Republican Party at a historic time in our nation’s history,” DeSantis said in the press release issued by the RNC late Thursday evening.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, released a video on Twitter Thursday evening declaring: “We do things big and bold and we’ll be ready.”
Curry praised the “herculean task” of his top aides to secure hotel accommodations to ease the minds of organizers seeking to relocate the event. Hotel space was an issue when the city hosted Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005.
The city has secured over 10,000 hotel rooms along with other “host venues,” Curry said in a press release.
“All of these combined are anticipated to bring an economic impact of more than $100 million to our city. We will continue to collaborate with local, state, and federal law enforcement to insure we host a safe and secure event,” he added.
But Democrats blasted the president —- who refuses to wear a face mask in public, despite the recommendations of White House health officials —- and Republican leaders for the decision to relocate in Florida, where COVID-19 cases continue to climb and dozens of deaths are reported daily.
"More than 113,000 Americans have died and millions have lost their jobs all because Donald Trump has been hiding in his bunker and leaving the American people to grapple with his ineptitude,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa Hinojosa said in a press release. “Now, Trump and Republicans have decided to handle their convention planning the same way they've handled the entire coronavirus crisis: prioritize Trump's ego over Americans' health and safety.”
Florida Republicans, however, cheered the selection of the heavily Republican, waterfront city.
“The energy and excitement is already building in the Sunshine State for the opportunity to celebrate President Donald J. Trump delivering his acceptance speech,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters, who is also a state senator, said in a release.
The convention will draw visitors from throughout the country to Jacksonville, “a beautiful Florida city on the Atlantic Ocean offering hotel space, top-notch convention facilities, beautiful weather, beaches and a lot of Republicans —- just an overall outstanding venue,” Gruters said.
“There is no better place to host the Republican National Convention than in the nation’s largest swing state that is also home to President Trump and to the country’s best governor, Ron DeSantis,” he said. “We are thrilled Florida was selected and we will not let them down.”
The national party reportedly had also been considering Orlando, Nashville, Dallas and Savannah, Ga.
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo called the Jacksonville choice an attempt to “gloss over” Trump’s “failed coronavirus response."
Rizzo said she hopes that Republicans can keep attendees safe.
“However, I am deeply concerned that the impetus for moving their highest profile event to Florida was because Donald Trump wanted to give a speech to a crowd of people not social distancing —- and, given his previous public events, likely not wearing masks,” Rizzo said in a press release.
The Democratic leader accused Trump of having “abandoned North Carolina because he wants it to look like the threat of the coronavirus is over” when he gives his acceptance speech.
“Unfortunately, optics are not a public health strategy, nor are they a good re-election strategy,” she added.
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