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Trump: GOP Convention Moving From NC   06/03 06:21


   RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- President Donald Trump said he is seeking a new state 
to host this summer's Republican National Convention after North Carolina 
refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions 
because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus.

   Trump announced the news via tweet Tuesday night, complaining the state's 
governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, and other officials "refuse to guarantee that we 
can have use of the Spectrum Arena" and were not "allowing us to occupy the 
arena as originally anticipated and promised."

   "Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host 
the 2020 Republican National Convention," he wrote.

   Trump and the Republican National Committee had been demanding that the 
convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and no face coverings 
 raising alarms in a state that is facing an upward trend in its virus 
cases, with about 29,900 cumulative cases and 900 deaths as of Tuesday. Around 
700 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. Mecklenburg County, where 
Charlotte is located, accounted for 4,500 cases  more than double the 
next-highest county  and nearly 100 deaths.

   "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."

   A traditional GOP convention brings together roughly 2,500 delegates, the 
same number of alternate delegates and many times more guests, journalists and 
security personnel. Officials in both parties have been preparing contingency 
plans for months given the uncertainty and dangers posed by the virus and 
evolving restrictions on large gatherings meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.

   Trump's announcement came after a call with Cooper Friday in which the 
president had told Cooper he wanted a traditional convention with a packed 
arena full of delegates  and with no face coverings to prevent the spread of 

   During the call, when Trump "insisted on a full convention arena with no 
face coverings and no social distancing the governor expressed concerns and 
suggested a scaled back event with fewer attendees," Cooper spokeswoman Sadie 
Weiner wrote in an email. "They agreed to continue talking about ways to have a 
safe convention in Charlotte."

   But Cooper made clear to Trump that those conditions would likely be 
impossible to accommodate given the status of the epidemic in his state, and 
formalized that Tuesday in a letter to the RNC on the eve of a Wednesday 
deadline set by the GOP for assurances from Cooper that he would allow a 
full-scale event in August.

   Cooper wrote to RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel that "planning for a scaled-down 
convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a 
necessity." And later he told reporters it was unlikely that virus trends would 
allow a full-capacity nominating convention for Trump to proceed at Charlotte's 
NBA arena.

   "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."

   That prompted the RNC to say they would begin visiting potential alternative 
sites in the largely GOP-led states that have offered to host the quadrennial 
gathering instead.

   McDaniel, meanwhile, accused Cooper of "dragging his feet" on giving them 
guidance for proceeding with convention plans. While the party would like to 
hold its event in Charlotte, "we have an obligation to our delegates and 
nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states" that have reached out 
to express interest in hosting, she said.

   The Republican governors of states including Tennessee, Florida and Georgia 
had said they would be interested in hosting if North Carolina fell through. 
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said GOP officials were coming to scout Nashville on 
Thursday and called the city "the best place in America to have a convention."

   Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp responded to Trump's announcement by tweeting, 
"Hope you have Georgia on your mind, @realDonaldTrump!"

   One RNC official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and 
spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while Trump won't accept 
renomination in Charlotte, other convention business may still be conducted 

   Changing sites had been seen as difficult for reasons including the contract 
between GOP officials and Charlotte leaders to hold the convention there. In 
April, the City Council voted to accept a $50 million federal grant for 
convention security. Before the vote, City Attorney Patrick Baker noted the 
overall contract requires parties to follow applicable laws and regulations, 
including Cooper's executive orders. Cooper's current order limits indoor 
gatherings to 10 people.

   The city of Charlotte posted on its Twitter account Tuesday that it had not 
received any official notification from the RNC and that Baker "will be in 
contact with the attorneys for the RNC to understand their full intentions."

   Earlier in the day, North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley had 
acknowledged that some changes would likely be needed, but maintained 
Republicans wanted a "full-scale" convention.

   "Look, we're not going to move forward with any activities that do not 
follow federal, state or local requirements and regulations," he said.

   Whatley said the convention could have generated $200 million for the 
regional economy, giving a boost to the hospitality industry as well as 
restaurants and bars.

   Still, Charlotte restaurant owners said they didn't expect a huge hit if the 
RNC moved or was scaled back.

   "I feel like it would be a small impact on our business," said Greg 
Zanitsch, who owns the Fig Tree near the city's central business district.


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