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."
“While no final decision has been made by the RNC we understand Jacksonville is a front runner. This certainly has been generating a lot of attention and excitement. We continue to believe that Florida would be the best place for the Convention” —Chairman @JoeGruters
— Florida GOP (@FloridaGOP) June 10, 2020
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.
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.
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.”
1. The @CityofJax has strongly demonstrated the ability to host large events in a safe & responsible way. The world’s 1st pro live sporting event since COVID19 was broadcast around the globe from @VyStarVetArena in partnership with the @UFC.
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) May 26, 2020
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.
We welcome the opportunity to host the @GOPconvention in Jacksonville. A $100 million local impact event would be important for our city as an event/convention destination.The City is ready for world class events &ready show the world we are open for business. @GOP @GOPChairwoman
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) June 2, 2020
President Trump has made it clear he wants a big crowd at the convention, which has some worried it would mean spreading COVID-19.
“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.
“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.