Jacksonville, Florida, has been picked to host the GOP celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination to run for reelection, the Republican National Committee chairwoman said Thursday.
Ronna McDaniel on Wednesday said she made clear that Jacksonville was the favorite after Charlotte, North Carolina, the official host of this summer’s Republican National Convention, balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention free from social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many Jacksonville hotel rooms have already been blocked off for late August — a week after the state’s Aug. 18 primary.
In a statement, the chair of the Florida Democrats, Terrie Rizzo, said that she was “deeply concerned” about Trump’s intentions to hold a large event with scaled-back coronavirus safety measures.
“Donald Trump abandoned North Carolina because he wants it to look like the threat of the coronavirus is over when he gives his big televised speech,” Rizzo wrote. “Unfortunately, optics are not a public health strategy, nor are they a good re-election strategy.”
The RNC spent the last week scouting locations after Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., rejected Trump’s demand that the convention be allowed to take place Aug. 24-27 without social distancing measures.
“The governor doesn’t want to give an inch, and what he’s doing is losing hundreds of millions of dollars for his state,” Trump said Wednesday at the White House. He told reporters that many states have volunteered to host, including Texas, Georgia and Florida.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in an earlier interview with Fox News Channel that Trump was “very frustrated with the politically motivated governor of North Carolina, who is not doing what’s in the best interest of his state, which is to bring economic boom and economic activity and the great resources that would come with holding a convention.”
Cooper stressed his desire to keep residents in his state safe from the coronavirus. His press secretary, Dory MacMillan, said Wednesday that North Carolina officials have been “willing to work together with the RNC on a scaled-down event with health and safety measures, but it wouldn’t be responsible to guarantee a full arena as the RNC has demanded.”
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. The pandemic has killed more than 112,000 Americans in a matter of months.
The Jacksonville area, home to a major military base, has a population of about 1.5 million. Mayor Len Curry is a former chairperson of the state Republican Party, and the area is the home base of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, a key Trump ally.
That celebration could generate at least $100 million in revenues for the host city, perhaps more.
Florida’s prize of 29 electoral votes is considered crucial to Trump’s bid for a second term, which could factor into the party’s calculations.
Colvin reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.