GOP State Lawmakers Make Bid to Keep Trump, RNC in North Carolina

June 9, 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)

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina plan to vote Tuesday on a measure that would allow President Donald Trump to speak in front of a capacity crowd at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte without the restrictions officials have imposed on other events to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure is seen as largely symbolic as it will almost certainly be rejected by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, and at present, the Republicans reportedly don’t have the votes to override his veto.

An announcement on the future of the convention could come as early as Wednesday.

Cooper and North Carolina health officials have been the subject of multiple angry tweets by President Donald Trump due to their insistence the convention be held in accordance with whatever pandemic-stemming rules are in effect at the time of the late August event.

After Cooper failed to bow to his requests, Trump said he’d find another host city for the quadrennial event.

The bill, authored by Republican State Rep. John Torbett, calls for convention events in Charlotte to be held at full capacity, regardless of what Cooper says.

The bill would require attendees to complete both pre-attendance and daily health surveys and have their temperatures taken prior to entry. But it would not require face masks or six feet of physical distancing.

“If they choose to gather in close proximity without any protection, they have the option to do that under their own personal responsibility,” Torbett has said.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee, which runs the convention, is exploring other sites for Trump to speak in front of a full capacity crowd after Cooper’s refusal, but said it plans to keep its official business meetings in Charlotte.

“The RNC’s Executive Committee has voted unanimously to allow the official business of the national convention to continue in Charlotte,” said a statement from Michael Ahrens, the RNC’s communications director. “Many other cities are eager to host the president’s acceptance of the nomination, and we are currently in talks with several of them to host that celebration.”

Last week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was in Savannah, Ga. to tour a food bank, when he was asked to address rumors that the historic city is on the short list as a potential alternate convention site.

Kemp was the first state official to make a bid for the convention in the wake of Trump’s saying it would be moved.

“I think for a GOP or Democratic convention, as big as they are in today’s world, you may not have enough hotel rooms to do something like that here for the number of people who are coming,” Kemp said. “That’s one reason we’re working on the [Savannah] Convention Center and trying to expand that so we can continue to have large events.”

But Kemp went on to say Republican Party leadership is considering the format the convention will take, which suggested it is possible the GOP will hold different events in various cities. If that becomes the case, Savannah could end up hosting a GOP celebration this summer after all.

“They may have multiple events, which if they do that, I think certainly any large venue in our state could be a place that could house it,” Kemp said, adding that he is eager to entice any organizations that may host conferences here to help boost the economy.

“We’re open for business in Georgia,” Kemp said. “We’ll work with public health officials to try to do anything they want to.”

Republican officials visited Nashville on Thursday and plan to tour other major cities in the coming days. Aside from Savannah, the RNC’s top considerations to host Trump include Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Dallas, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.

If an alternate site is chosen for at least some of the events, it would be the first time a political convention has been held in different cities at once.

In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry has openly lobbied for the convention to come to his city and Florida Gov. Ron Desantis said the state would welcome the convention, citing Orlando, Miami, and Jacksonville as potential hosts.

Last week, Desantis also said while the coronavirus is a concern, it should not prevent Florida from hosting the event.

“We understand that there’s a virus. What can we do to be able to have activity in a way that’s safe?” he said in an interview with the Florida Times-Union. “To just say ‘no’ to everything, I don’t think is going to work. So we want to be able to do it, and I think we could do it in a safe way.” 

Representatives of the RNC convention committee did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

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