Jacksonville to host Trump’s renomination convention

Jacksonville, Florida, will officially host the GOP celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel confirmed Thursday.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” McDaniel said 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.”

On Wednesday, amid speculation that Jacksonville would be selected to host, McDaniel said reports of a final decision were “definitely premature.” But she made clear that Jacksonville is the favorite now that Charlotte, North Carolina, the official host of this summer’s Republican National Convention, has balked on promising Trump a full-blown convention free from social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a couple more things we need to do before we can announce that, but Jacksonville is absolutely in the front-running position,” she said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

ExploreSign up for our Election 2020 newsletter

Early reports Wednesday morning from The Washington Post said Jacksonville had already tentatively been chosen, but some GOP officials denied those reports. A party spokesperson later said officials would tour Phoenix, Jacksonville and Savannah this week, and no final decision has been made.

The Republican National Convention is set for Aug. 24-27.

Contractual obligations between the RNC and the city of Charlotte may require the convention’s lower-profile — and lower attended — meetings to still take place in the Queen City. Jacksonville would be the site for the larger meetings, such as the nominating convention, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier this month, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said state health officials could not allow the convention to proceed without coronavirus screening and protection measures.

In late May, North Carolina health officials asked Republican National Convention executives how many delegates would attend the Charlotte convention, as well as how they plan to identify and isolate anyone testing COVID-19 positive.

The letter, sent to McDaniel and convention president Marcia Lee Kelly, came in the wake of Trump's demand to know if Charlotte and North Carolina will be reopened from the coronavirus in time for the Aug. 24-27 convention.

The letter cited CDC guidelines for coronavirus protection, which Trump has criticized in the past, and asked RNC officials how they will “implement health screenings, social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, and other cleaning protocols” during the event. It also asked if the president still wanted a large convention “without social distancing or face coverings.”

»COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS

The Democratic National Convention has already been postponed to Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee.

Governors of other states, including Georgia’s Brian Kemp, immediately extended invitations to the RNC to consider their locations as alternative convention sites.

Kemp’s offer was followed by one from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who told reporters at a Miami news conference that he “would love” to have the GOP or even the Democratic convention, as either would bring millions of dollars to the state.

Regional coverage

At The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, we focus primarily on Georgia news, but we also like to provide readers with regional coverage of the Southeast. We cover stories that impact our region, especially in Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina and Mississippi.

The Republican governor said if Trump decides to move the GOP convention, it presumably would have to abide by any federal health guidelines and Florida would do its part to uphold them.