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The RNC Isn't Going To Jacksonville. What Does That Mean For Charlotte?

Erin Keever

President Trump on Thursday called off the Jacksonville, Florida, portion of the Republican National Convention, saying, “it’s not the right time” for a large convention. The GOP last month moved most of the convention from Charlotte after Gov. Roy Cooper wouldn’t guarantee the Republicans a packed house at the Spectrum Center.

Joining WFAE's "Morning Edition" co-host Lisa Worf to talk about what this means for Charlotte is WFAE’s political reporter Steve Harrison.

Lisa Worf: Good morning, Steve.

Steve Harrison: Good morning, Lisa.

Worf: So Steve, tell me where it all went wrong in Jacksonville.

Harrison: I think the biggest factor was the coronavirus. Jacksonville has about the same number of cases as Mecklenburg County, but Florida overall has seen this huge surge, with the state consistently adding 10,000 cases a day. So the Republicans went from a state where the virus was simmering to one where it began to boil.

And remember, a big reason for going to Florida was local politics. The mayor of Jacksonville is a Republican. The City Council is a Republican majority.

But then this week, the Republican sheriff of Duval County said, "Wait a minute. We aren’t ready to pull this off." He essentially said he has serious problems about providing security.

And then there was going to be a big city council vote next week on authorizing the mayor to spend security money without council approval, the Democrats were mounting a serious challenge to that.

Worf: So nothing is happening in Jacksonville. This means Charlotte is back in the spotlight again, right? Even if it’s a small spotlight?

Harrison: That’s right. President Trump said some official business will take place in Charlotte, and an RNC spokesperson said the same thing last night. I looked at an official schedule for the “business-only convention” and it has 336 delegates and officials arriving in Charlotte on Friday, Aug. 21. They would conduct meetings over the weekend, and then nominate the President on Monday morning. Then they were supposed to fly to Jacksonville that day. Now, I guess they will fly home.

Worf: And is there any indication Charlotte might try and get more parts of the convention now that Jacksonville is out?

Harrison: I don’t think so. And one thing to remember is that all of those events we talked about earlier – it’s unclear if any of that can take place. Because right now we are in Phase 2 and there is a prohibition of more than 10 people gathering indoors at a time. So, even having this business-only meeting is going to be a challenge.

And don’t count on any help from the local host committee which is trying to pay of its debts. When the RNC left, it talked about the GOP’s “broken promises” to Charlotte.

Worf: And the city is still owed money as well, right?

Harrison: It is. Charlotte has spent $16.7 million preparing mostly for security. And the city attorney sent the RNC a letter over the weekend saying that: We aren’t spending any more money; we expected the Department of Justice to pay us back; and that you can’t expand your convention because we aren’t preparing for it.

Go behind the headlines with WFAE political reporter Steve Harrison in his weekly newsletter, Inside Politics. Steve will provide insight about and analysis of local and statewide politics. Readers will gain an understanding of political news on the horizon and why it matters.

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