Done Deal: Trump to Accept GOP Nomination in Jacksonville

June 12, 2020 by Dan McCue
Confetti and balloons fall during celebrations after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's acceptance speech on the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

WASHINGTON – After an accelerated, last-minute search, the Republican National Committee has selected Jacksonville, Fla., as the site of its presidential nominating convention’s keynote events, including President Donald Trump’s prime-time speech accepting the GOP nomination.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said late Thursday in a statement.

“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,” McDaniel said.

The move to Jacksonville came after Trump said the party would not hold its convention at the previously chosen site, Charlotte, North Carolina, due to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s refusal to ensure capacity crowds would be allowed at events in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Party officials have said the convention’s official business meetings will still take place in Charlotte due to contractual obligations.

While many of the details related to the new convention site are still to be worked out and announced, what is known is that it will still be held across the same dates — Aug. 24-27 — and that Trump will give his acceptance speech at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

It is believed that about 336 Republican delegates — six from each state and territory —  will gather in Charlotte on the first day of the convention, a Monday, before moving on to Jacksonville that night to participate in the higher profile events.

While in Charlotte, he delegates will conduct a meeting of the credentials committee and re-nominate the president and vice president, casting proxy votes for other delegates.

It is unclear where all this will take place. On Friday, J. Justin Riemer, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, informed the city, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, and the Charlotte Hornets basketball team that the party no longer needs the Spectrum Center.

The delegates could presumably use a portion of the Charlotte Convention Center or even a hotel. 

Last year the Republican National Committee held its annual summer meeting at the Westin Charlotte.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, had been lobbying to draw the event to his city after the RNC made it clear that it was open to moving it from Charlotte.

Late last month Curry tweeted, “A $100 million local impact event would be important for our city as an event/convention destination. The city is ready for world class events & ready [to] show the world we are open for business”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, also supported the convention coming to the state.

Both said they were thrilled after they received word their lobbying for the state and city had been successful.

“Florida is honored to host this special event where we will celebrate the re-nomination of President Donald J. Trump,” said DeSantis. “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.”

“Today’s announcement is a huge win for the City of Jacksonville to host the celebration of President Trump’s acceptance of the nomination,” said Curry. “The opportunity to highlight all our city has to offer and the tremendous economic impact is one I enthusiastically welcome, and we look forward to hosting an exciting event for all delegates and guests to enjoy.”

The decision to choose Jacksonville as the site of the RNC events is seen as an Indicator of the importance of Florida in the president’s reelection strategy.

Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Florida by fewer than 113,000 votes in 2016. Recent polls suggest this year’s contest with former Vice President Joe Biden will be similarly close in the Sunshine State. The swing state holds 29 electoral college votes.

Last night’s announcement that Jacksonville had been chosen as the convention site wasn’t all balloons and confetti for everyone. Several people expressed concerns over how Jacksonville’s residents would be protected against the spread of the coronavirus with such a big event coming to town.

On Friday morning, Curry said he shares those concerns, but added, “I monitor the science. I monitor the hospitalizations and will always adapt the actions of our city and our citizens based on the data at that time.”

He said COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place, but what those will look like depends largely on what the pandemic looks like in two months.

“The status of COVID-19, the risks of COVID-19, what it will look like in late August will likely not look like what it does today,” Curry said. “Look at where we are today based on where we were a couple of months ago. A couple of months ago there were suggestions and statements that theme parks in our state wouldn’t open until next year, that sports teams wouldn’t be back until next year, that there would be no athletic events. Inside of 10 to 12 weeks that all changed, so if we continue on this trajectory, we’re going to be ready to go. We’re going to be back in business.”

The Democratic National Committee also weighed in on the move to Jacksonville, saying the convention is really being planned for an audience of one — “Donald Trump’s ego.”

“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,” said DNC Communications Director Xochitl Hinojosa.

“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,” Hinojosa continued. “While Donald Trump refuses to listen to health experts because he only cares about himself, Democrats will follow science and prioritize the health and safety of the American people.”

On Friday morning, the Charlotte Host 2020 Committee  issued its own statement, calling confirmation the the Republican National Convention is moving to Jacksonville “devastating news for the thousands of people who live in our community and work at our hotels, entertainment venues and small businesses expecting a boost from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our good faith efforts to carry out our obligations under agreements made two years ago have been met with broken promises and disregard of the significant commitment from many partners across our region. We need to stop pretending there’s any part of the convention that will remain in Charlotte. Unfortunately, the convention has moved to Jacksonville due to decisions beyond our control,” the committee said.

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