President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that the Republican Party will be looking for a new venue for its convention because North Carolina’s governor refuses to relax restrictions over public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump said the GOP will move the party’s presidential nominating gathering from the planned site in Charlotte, N.C., because Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, refuses “to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena.” Trump went on to tweet that Cooper was not “allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised.”
Cooper tweeted a response saying the Republican Party had not come to an agreement on making changes to the convention to “keep people safe” during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” Cooper tweeted in response to the decision. “Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.”
According to an Associated Press story, Trump spoke with Cooper Friday and told him he wanted a traditional nominating convention with a full arena. He added that he did not want delegates and guests to be required to wear face coverings or practice social distancing.
Cooper sent a letter to GOP officials on Tuesday saying it was unlikely that a convention like that could take place in August. The letter came a day before a Wednesday deadline set by the Republican National Committee that called for assurances from Cooper that an unrestricted convention would take place in August.
In the letter, Cooper told RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel that a “scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.”
“We think it is unlikely that we would be to the point at the end of August to be able to have a jam-packed 19,000-person convention in the Spectrum arena,” Cooper said. “So the likelihood of it being in Charlotte depends upon the RNC’s willingness to discuss with us a scaled-down convention.”
McDaniel, in a statement issued Tuesday said Cooper was "dragging his feet.”
As of Tuesday, North Carolina has had about 29,900 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 900 deaths. According to the North Carolina Health Department, 716 people are currently hospitalized with the virus.
According to the AP, Republican governors of Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have all said they would be interested in hosting the convention if it is pulled from North Carolina.
Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp tweeted, “Hope you have Georgia on your mind.”
McDaniel promised that RNC officials would begin visiting other cities that have offered to host the convention. Among the places that have been floated as potential replacements are Atlanta; Jacksonsville, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; and Nashville, Tenn.
The party hopes to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte, an official told NPR Tuesday, but added that Trump may make his nomination acceptance speech somewhere else.
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