'Stop Pretending’: RNC moves to Jacksonville, Fla. in all but name

Updated: Jun. 12, 2020 at 7:15 PM EDT
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(WBTV) - In a letter sent to the City of Charlotte and other stakeholders in the Republican National Convention, The Republican National Committee announced that the majority of the convention speeches and people attending them will move to Jacksonville, while a much smaller set of business meetings is still scheduled in Charlotte.

The letter follows news that President Donald Trump would officially celebrate his acceptance of the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in Jacksonville at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

“We anticipate holding the Convention in Charlotte pursuant to our contractual obligations,” the letter reads. The letter goes on to detail that the committee reinforced their intention to conduct important party business, including the nomination of President Trump and Vice President Pence, in Charlotte.

However, the CLT Host 2020 committee released its own statement proclaiming the convention completely gone from the Queen City.

"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," the statement from the host committee read.

"We need to stop pretending there’s any part of the convention that will remain in Charlotte."

The Host Committee set a goal to raise $70 million to help Charlotte host the RNC and Charlotte City Council recently accepted a $50 million federal security grant in preparation for the RNC. While the city has spent $14 million to date for the RNC a city source tells WBTV they are currently working out what will happen with the remaining security grant.

The City of Charlotte released a statement Friday evening in response to the news of the RNC’s relocation.

“Since being awarded the 2020 Republican National Convention, we have been working with our partners to meet our obligations and to help ensure a successful event for the Republican National Committee (RNC), as well as for the Charlotte community. Given the RNC’s formal notice to relocate most convention events to Jacksonville, FL., the City believes it is in the parties’ best interest to immediately unwind the agreements among them and hold the RNC accountable to fulfill all its outstanding obligations to the parties and make them whole,” the statement read.

During a press conference Friday morning Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said that the federal government would be paying for the costs associated with the government. When asked by WBTV how that would happen he was unsure.

"I don't know the logistics of how it will transfer," Curry said adding that he's worked with well with the federal government partners in the past.

The letter mentions asking Governor Roy Cooper to approve a proposed safety protocol for the convention. Cooper was not able to confirm which restrictions related to COVID-19 would be lifted, and could not confirm full attendance at the convention.

Currently, North Carolina is in Phase 2 of reopening. Under the executive order guidelines, no more than 10 people are allowed at indoor mass gatherings with no more than 25 people allowed outdoors.

“As a result, we have no choice but to host the Convention-related celebrations and related events elsewhere. The Governor’s Executive Order prohibits us from conducting our Convention related celebrations in Charlotte,” the Republican National Committee wrote.

The Republican National Committee says speeches by the president and others will take place in Jacksonville on August 25, 26 and 27.

The Republican National Committee said they have modified their rules after Cooper’s directive of holding a “scaled down” convention. Fewer delegates and staff will be required to gather in Charlotte under the revised plan.

The party is contractually obligated to keep some portion of the convention in Charlotte, but a vote on Wednesday night substantially paired down that portion to 336 delegates where there would have been over 2,500.

Below are the rules detailed in the letter:

“Under our revised plan, each State and Territory of the United States will send six (6) delegates to the Convention floor for the nomination and other votes, for a total of three hundred and thirty-six (336) delegates. The remaining two-thousand, two-hundred and fourteen (2,214) delegates can designate floor delegates as proxyholders to cast their votes for the nominations.”

The committee says they request that CLT Host 2020 not make any additional payments to the Spectrum Center, “as we do not anticipate holding any Convention events and activities at that location due to the restrictions in place in North Carolina.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to hold the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and we likewise appreciate your continued efforts to host a safe and successful Convention in the Queen City," the committee wrote.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced Thursday that Jacksonville was selected as the host city to celebrate the re-nomination of Trump.

The celebration of the re-nomination of the President will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, August 24-27. The selection of Jacksonville comes after Governor Roy Cooper did not agree to a full attendance celebration in 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 boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months."

The RNC’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to allow the official business of the national convention to continue in Charlotte.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have been very welcoming, and we look forward to bringing a safe and exciting celebration to Jacksonville and the surrounding area,” a press release read.

"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 City of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny 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."

On Wednesday night, CNN reported the RNC executive committee unanimously approved a plan to “significantly scale down the convention proceedings that will take place in Charlotte later this summer.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted that the city would welcome the RNC to town.

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," CLT HOST 2020 said in a statement. "Unfortunately, this action most directly impacts our hospitality and tourism partners, small businesses, and vendors counting on the economic impact of the promised events.”

“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city,” RNC officials wrote in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”

Charlotte city officials were still working out a deal over what hosting the “official business” portion of the Republican National Convention will look like.

“The RNC’s Executive Committee has voted unanimously to allow the official business of the national convention to continue in Charlotte,” RNC Communications Director Michael Ahrens wrote in a statement. “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.”

Trump’s response, delivered on Twitter, came after Cooper responded to the Republican National Committee earlier in the day, saying it was “very unlikely” public health concerns over COVID-19 would allow for the “full convention” the president has requested for the RNC in Charlotte.

Gov. Cooper tweeted in response to President Trump again, saying state officials had been committed to a safe convention in Charlotte in August.

“We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe. Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority,” Cooper tweeted.

The City of Charlotte later tweeted that they had not received official notification from the RNC regarding their intent for the convention.

“We have a contract in place with the RNC to host the convention and the City Attorney will be in contact with the attorneys for the RNC to understand their full intentions,” city officials said.

“State and local partners 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. State officials will continue to support health and safety aspects of any activities that do remain in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper’s press secretary said.

In early June, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the committee would be “visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days” about hosting the convention.

The Republican National Committee recently sent a letter to Cooper stating they expect a full convention, no matter the state of the coronavirus pandemic. The RNC committee’s defined a full convention as “19,000 delegates, alternate delegates, staff, volunteers, elected officials and guest inside the Spectrum Center.” The RNC said they are also expecting hotels to be full and restaurants and bars to be at capacity.

On May 26, Trump gave Cooper one week to make a decision about allowing full attendance at the convention before considering other locations for the convention.

While N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen responded to the RNC’s request with a follow-up letter detailing questions health officials wanted answered about convention plans, Cooper’s letter came just one day before the president’s deadline.

When giving Cooper the one-week deadline, President Trump pointed out that the RNC has “tremendous” economic development consequences on the state.

“We have to know that when the people come down, they’re going to have the doors open - now if the governor can’t tell us very soon, unfortunately we’ll have no choice,” President Trump said.

President Trump talked about how he loves North Carolina and how it is a very important place to him.

“I’d love to have it in North Carolina. that was why I chose it, Charlotte - but we’re going to see,” President Trump said.

President Trump said he would say he needed to know if the governor can guarantee full attendance within a week before looking elsewhere for a location.

“If he feels that he’s not going to do it, all he has to do is tell us and then we’ll have to pick another locations and I will tell you a lot of locations want it,” President Trump said. “But I picked North Carolina because I do love that state and it would have been a perfect place for it and it still would be - but he’s got to say that when thousands of people come to the arena that they’ll be able to get in. Does that make sense?”

The full response to the question can be found here around the 21:44 minute mark of the video.

Gov. Cooper said state officials have already been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention they would need to hold and the kinds of options needed. The Republican National Convention was originally set for August 24 through August 27 at the Spectrum Center. It was expected to bring nearly 50,000 people to the city.

“We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said.

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