'Devastating news’: Main event for RNC moved from Charlotte to Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Republicans have selected Jacksonville, Florida, to host the celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection.

Officials announced Thursday that the main event of the Republican National Convention would be held in Florida instead of Charlotte.

“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “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 boom to the Sunshine State in just a few short months.”

Officials said the celebration of Trump’s re-nomination will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

The RNC is requesting Charlotte to “refrain from incurring any additional costs that are no longer necessary as a result of the scaled-down convention that we will host in Charlotte, including hotel rooms, venues, transportation, and security.”

On Friday morning, Charlotte Host 2020 issued the following statement:

“Confirmation by the city of Jacksonville that the Republican National Convention has moved is 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 decision comes after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper voiced concerns about holding a full-scale convention. The governor balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention in Charlotte without social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

The RNC voted Wednesday to hold a significantly scaled-down convention in Charlotte, allowing the party’s more mundane business, including discussions over the platform, to be held in the Queen City because of contractual obligations.

The decision means a little more than 300 delegates will come to Charlotte to officially select Trump as the party’s nominee. That will likely be the only official business actually done in the city.

As it stands, Charlotte will host its portion of the convention from Aug. 21-24, while Jacksonville will host events Aug. 25-27. Officials said 336 delegates will vote to nominate Trump in Charlotte. Other possible business in the Queen City includes the report of the convention committee on credentials, the passage of resolutions regarding the publication of proceedings, and deliberations on other party business.

Then, everything moves to Jacksonville for three days of speeches and celebrations with 2,000 delegates.

McDaniel made the announcement a day after saying that Jacksonville was a front-runner to hold the event. The governor of North Carolina, the official host of this summer’s Republican National Convention, had balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention in Charlotte free from social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.

McDaniel said the event would be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds 15,000 people. She said more details would be released in the coming weeks.

The RNC had spent the last week scouting locations after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper rejected Trump’s demand that the convention be allowed to take place Aug. 24-27 without social distancing measures.

McDaniel told Fox News, “The mayor, Lenny Curry, and also Governor DeSantis, have just worked with us every step of the way. And they want this to be a great event to show that their state is open, America is open for business, so we are going to have an arena. We are obviously going to put safety checks in place to make sure the convention goers are safe, but we are going to have a packed arena. We are going to recognize the renomination of our President as we go on to re-elect him in November, and it’s going to be a great celebration. And Governor Cooper in North Carolina refused to work with us. It became very apparent that he was not going to give us guidelines so that we could hold our convention and we had to move the celebration part to Florida, but we will still have the business of the convention in North Carolina. We love both states.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a former chair of the state Republican Party, tweeted a video announcing his city’s selection for Trump’s speech. He said Jacksonville would be prepared and ready.

“What city would take on the Republican National Convention with just 75 days to pull it off?” he asked. “Probably not many. But Jacksonville isn’t just any city.”

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

Terrie Rizzo, the chair of the state’s Democratic Party, expressed concern about the gathering.

“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,” she said.

“Trump is coming to Florida to throw himself a big party — but it’s looking more and more like a goodbye party to his chance at a second term in the White House,” she said.

The Duval County GOP stated it would be the largest event for Jacksonville since the Super Bowl.

An online petition is gaining traction, asking the city to not host the RNC. About 70% of those signing the petition are from Duval County. About 17% are from surrounding counties and 13% who don’t want the RNC in Jacksonville are not from Northeast Florida.

The major reasons people are asking for the RNC to not be hosted in Jacksonville is because of worry over radical protests and COVID-19.

The move comes after North Carolina officials chose to follow pandemic social distancing guidelines, meaning a packed arena in Charlotte could not be guaranteed.

In a phone call between President Donald Trump and Governor Roy Cooper, Trump expressed his desire to address a large, enthusiastic crowd saying, “I don’t want to be sitting in a place that’s 50 percent empty.”

This week, North Carolina Republican lawmakers filed a bill calling for convention events in Charlotte to be held at full capacity.

But, Channel 9′s government reporter Joe Bruno confirmed that the U.S. Secret Service has canceled hotel rooms in Charlotte for the week of the convention, signaling a move elsewhere.

In turn, Republican leadership began shopping around for a new site, settling on the northern Florida town to host the Aug. 24-27 convention.

Washington Post reported Republican officials were in Jacksonville earlier this week looking at the city and the surrounding areas.

Convention organizers have said the event’s official business will remain in Charlotte. Officials told the Washington Post this is intended to honor the RNC’s contractual obligation to hold its convention in North Carolina and shield the party from future lawsuits.

[LINK: RNC contract and arena license agreement]

The City of Charlotte released this statement Wednesday morning:

“The City Attorney and members of his staff have been meeting regularly with the legal representatives of the Republican National Committee and other parties to the convention agreements. The City of Charlotte remains willing to work in good faith to complete its contractual obligations under the terms of the two Convention agreements. The City has not been officially informed of the RNC’s intent to relocate the convention. Considering the media reports of the RNC’s apparent unilateral decision to relocate a substantial portion of the convention to Jacksonville, an immediate discussion with the RNC and our partners regarding contractual obligations and remedies resulting from this apparent decision is required.”

Other locations that Republican leaders looked at for the convention included Orlando and Nashville. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump wanted to have the convention in Charlotte but that Cooper was standing in the way, calling his actions “politically motivated.”

The Charlotte 2020 Host Committee released the following statement Wednesday morning:

“We have learned from news reports that the Republican National Committee has moved the convention from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Florida. Though there have been some conversations about business meetings being held in our city, nothing has been confirmed to us. This decision is in clear violation of the agreements made with the City of Charlotte, the County of Mecklenburg, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, and the Charlotte Host Committee. Unfortunately, this action most directly impacts our hospitality and tourism partners, small businesses, and vendors counting on the economic impact of the promised events.”

Channel 9 found that Mecklenburg County has nearly twice as high a death rate as Duval County, where Jacksonville is located. Mecklenburg County also has a higher rate of cases than Duval County.