The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that it had selected Jacksonville, Florida, as the site where President Donald Trump will accept the party's nomination after bailing on Charlotte, North Carolina, over coronavirus restrictions.
"We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville," RNC Chairwoman Ronna 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."
The move to Florida, a crucial battleground state, comes after the committee was at loggerheads with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, whose was reluctant to ease COVID-19 restrictions. The convention is scheduled for the week of Aug. 24; Trump will accept the Republican presidential nomination at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
There is still a plan to hold all convention business in Charlotte because of contractual obligations between the city and Republican National Committee.
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Jacksonville is one of the largest cities in the U.S. to be led by a Republican mayor, Lenny Curry, the former head of the state's Republican Party and an ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has eased restrictions in the state. DeSantis said in a statement that he was "honored" to host the convention. Curry called it "a huge win" for the city.
Others have also noted that despite nationwide reckoning over racial discrimination in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Trump's acceptance speech, which traditionally occurs on the final day of the convention, falls on the 60th anniversary of one of Jacksonville's most horrific events during the civil rights movement — Ax Handle Saturday.
Sixty years ago, several members of the NAACP's youth council participated in a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter and were later chased through the streets of downtown Jacksonville by a mob of 200 white people, who attacked them with ax handles and baseball bats.
Trump's campaign and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The RNC has not released details of how it plans to host a large event during the pandemic, but initial plans indicated that temperature checks, social distancing and sanitizing stations are among the precautions.
The Democratic National Committee initially planned to have its nominating convention in Milwaukee in July, but it was postponed until August because of COVID-19. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, said this year that the DNC will likely host a virtual convention amid the pandemic.
"I want the Democratic convention to happen. But I also want to ensure that there isn't stress on the public health system, nor put the delegates and others that come to the convention in harm's way," Evers said. "I would believe it's likely that it would be virtual, but I want to look at the data before I do any recommendation."
The Florida Democratic Party said in a statement after the announcement Thursday: "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. Unfortunately, optics are not a public health strategy, nor are they a good re-election strategy."