Republican Convention Feud Escalates as Officials Weigh New Site

Spread the love

The Republican National Committee is actively looking at alternate sites for its August nominating convention, amid a high-stakes and public feud with Democratic officials in Charlotte, the long-planned host city for the event.

Officials are planning a visit to Nashville later in the week. Other cities under consideration, according to a Republican official familiar with the plans, are Las Vegas and the Florida cities Orlando and Jacksonville, as well as sites in Georgia.

President Trump and Republican officials have been pressing North Carolina for reassurances that they can hold a large-scale, traditional convention in August. But with virus cases growing in North Carolina, the state’s governor, Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wrote a letter to Republican officials on Tuesday saying that “the people of North Carolina do not know what the status of Covid-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.”

Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the R.N.C., soon escalated the feud with state officials, putting the state on notice that there was a strong possibility of moving the event.

“We have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business,” Ms. McDaniel wrote in a letter to Mr. Cooper.

The back-and-forth over where to hold Mr. Trump’s nominating convention has been caught up in the partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans about when to fully reopen the country, and how, and whether to exercise caution or boldness as the country struggles to regain normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Democratic officials have taken a more measured approach to holding their own convention, citing the uncertainty caused by the virus, Republicans have largely lined up behind Mr. Trump’s desire for a boisterous event that can serve as a celebration of his bid for a second term.

The latest stalemate came after Ms. McDaniel and Marcia Lee Kelly, the president of the convention committee, had given Mr. Cooper a June 3 deadline to approve safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus during the event.

Ms. McDaniel and Ms. Kelly had at one point acknowledged that a safe convention would need to be scaled back to protect the health of its attendees. But in his letter Tuesday, Mr. Cooper indicated that the two parties involved were no longer in agreement about working toward a scaled back event, and referred to a Friday night phone call with Ms. McDaniel and Mr. Trump, in which they wanted a guarantee of a “full arena” inside the Spectrum Center for the president’s official nomination.

Instead, Mr. Cooper made it clear that despite a two-year-old contract with the Republican Party to hold the convention, which was originally set to bring 19,000 delegates and alternates, and other visitors, to the biggest city in the state, he was not going to guarantee he could deliver the convention on the terms they demanded. He underscored that face coverings and social distancing requirements would be necessary for any large gathering he signed off on.

“Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek,” Mr. Cooper wrote on Tuesday.