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It's Official: Charlotte Loses RNC's Main Event to Jacksonville, Florida

Paul Brennan
Public Domain
President Trump will accept his renomination in Jacksonville, Florida, instead of Charlotte in August.

Charlotte -- long slated to host the 2020 Republican National Convention -- has now lost the convention's main event. 

The Republican National Committee on Thursday announced that President Trump will accept his renomination in Jacksonville, Florida, instead of Charlotte. The Florida city was announced as a frontrunner to host the renomination this week after RNC officials decided to largely leave North Carolina after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper refused to guarantee a full-capacity convention at the Spectrum Center. 

"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," committee chair Ronna McDaniel said Thursday in a statement. "We look forward to bringing this great celebration and economic boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months." 

McDaniel said the RNC's executive committee voted unanimously to name Jacksonville the new host city. 

The convention isn't entirely leaving Charlotte, though. Business aspects of the RNC will still be held here, but there will only be 336 delegates. Initially, the RNC had been expected to bring as many as 50,000 people to Charlotte and would have involved about 19,000 people inside of the Spectrum Center. 

Such a gathering wouldn't be allowed under North Carolina's current COVID-19 restrictions. The convention was set to run from Aug. 24-27, and the state is still in Phase 2 of its three-part reopening plan.  Cooper and state health officials had asked the RNC to plan for a scaled-back convention with safety requirements such face masks. 

The two sides never came to terms.

Trump’s acceptance speech will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which has 15,000 seats.

While the GOP looked at other cities such as Nashville, Tennessee; Savannah, Georgia and Dallas, Jacksonville gave the GOP something that’s increasingly rare among large U.S. cities: a Republican mayor and a Republican-majority City Council.

While Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee welcomed the convention, Nashville’s Democratic mayor, John Cooper, said the city wouldn’t bid. In addition, the Democratic mayors of Atlanta and Savannah said they were concerned about hosting during the pandemic.

In Charlotte, the local host committee has raised $50 million for the convention. It’s unclear if that money will immediately transfer to help the GOP create a Jacksonville convention or whether local donors will want their donations returned.

The city of Charlotte has said it’s already spent $14 million to prepare for the convention. The city is supposed to be reimbursed up to $50 million from a federal security grant.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was quick to celebrate Thursday night. 

Shortly after McDaniel's announcement, Curry tweeted a video of himself talking over footage of Jacksonville. 

"What city would take on the Republican National Convention with just 75 days to pull it off? Probably not many," he said. "But Jacksonville isn't just any city." 

For a deeper dive into the RNC saga in Charlotte, listen to thelatest episode of our Inside Politics podcast

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
Dash joined WFAE as a digital editor for news and engagement in 2019. Before that, he was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, where he covered public safety and the military, among other topics. He also covered county government in Gaston County, North Carolina, for its local newspaper, the Gazette.