FL GOP, National Media: Jacksonville Front Runner For National Republican Convention

Jun 10, 2020

It’s looking more likely that the Republican National Convention will be moved to Jacksonville in August.

The Washington Post reports Republican officials were in Jacksonville on Monday to look at the city and First Coast area. The Post said the GOP has tentatively settled on Jacksonville, citing three unnamed Republican officials briefed on the plans.

The Republican Party of Florida also tweeted Wednesday that "we understand Jacksonville is a front runner."

The current host city, Charlotte, N.C., also issued a statement Wednesday, writing: "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."

First Coast News shared the Charlotte statement with WJCT News.

The New York Times is also reporting that Republicans expect to move the convention to Jacksonville. 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Duval County GOP chair Dean Black have been publicly lobbying to bring the convention to Jacksonville since President Donald Trump threatened to move it Memorial Day weekend.

“We think that Jacksonville is clearly the best city in the entire country to host this convention for a number of reasons,” said Duval GOP party chair Dean Black Thursday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

Jacksonville hosted the NFL Super Bowl in 2005, one of the largest annual events in the country.
Credit NFL

The Post reports the RNC’s lower-profile meetings would still take place in Charlotte, adding that the details are still in flux as RNC aides work to determine whether there are enough hotel rooms in Downtown Jacksonville and the metro area.

But Jacksonville has overcome that obstacle before. Cruise ships were brought in to accommodate extra guests when Jacksonville hosted the 2005 Super Bowl. 

The VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena has been promoted by Mayor Lenny Curry as a good location for the Republican National Convention.

Mayor Curry has suggested on Twitter that the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena would be a good spot for the convention, calling it a “world class facility.”

Before being elected as Jacksonville's mayor, Curry previously served as Florida's Republican Party chairman.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reported that RNC officials also toured Savannah, Ga. this week, in addition to considering Nashville, Orlando, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix.

Mayor Curry has said the convention would result in a $100 million local impact.

President Trump has made it clear he wants a big crowd at the convention, which has some worried it would mean spreading COVID-19.

Nell Toensmann chairs the St. Johns County Democratic Party. She expressed concern about spreading COVID-19 last week on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

“There is a big concern for the health issues. We still need to be careful. We still need to watch what's happening,” she said, adding,  “I think that everybody needs to consider the scientific aspect of this, so that we need to know where we stand. I mean, North Carolina, the numbers are still going up.”

Others are worried bringing the RNC to Jacksonville might result in some of the largest protests in the country’s history being focused on the River City.

In this July 21, 2016, file photo, confetti and balloons fall during celebrations after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's acceptance speech on the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Credit MATT ROURK / Associated Press

“I was around in 1968. I wound up having to sound for protests and saw riots and got in the middle of riots,” said petition organizer Richard Borders who is calling on Jacksonville to drop the idea of hosting the convention. At the time of this story's publication, his petition had gathered more than 7,000 signatures.

But Black countered that Jacksonville can handle it. “We also have a demonstrated ability to have peaceful protests,” Black said.

You can hear the full interviews with  Duval County GOP chair Dean Black and petition organizer Richard Borders on this episode of First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.orgor on Twitter at @BortzInJax.