TALLAHASSEE — Jacksonville, Fla., will host a series of Republican National Convention keynote events in August, including President Donald Trump’s prime-time speech to accept the GOP nomination.
The gathering is expected to be a multi-night event, according to a person familiar with the planning.
“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said late Thursday in a statement. “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. We look forward to bringing this great celebration and economic boon to the Sunshine State in just a few short months.”
The move came after a dust-up over coronavirus precautions that pitted Trump and GOP officials against North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
Cooper and other North Carolina officials refused to give assurances that they would allow signature convention events, including Trump’s speech before thousands of GOP supporters, due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
The convention’s official business meetings will still take place in Charlotte, but the party’s big events will be broadcast from Jacksonville, a city led by Republicans in Trump’s newly adopted home state, which also is led by Republicans.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, had been lobbying to draw the event to his city after the RNC made it clear that it was open to moving it from Charlotte. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, also supported the RNC coming to his state.
Jacksonville, like other cities across the state, has been the site of protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in Minnesota. Curry this week authorized the removal of a Confederate statue from a downtown park and promised that other Confederate monuments and historical markers also would be removed.
The decision to choose Jacksonville as the site of the RNC events is another sign of Florida’s outsized significance in the coming presidential election. The Trump campaign has made Florida a cornerstone of the president’s reelection strategy.
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Florida by fewer than 113,000 votes four years ago. Recent polls have shown Trump and Biden close to even as Biden has pulled ahead in other states.
One drawback for Jacksonville has been the number of available hotel rooms. The city faced ridicule when it hosted the 2005 Super Bowl after it called cruise ships to dock along the St. Johns River that flows through downtown because it did not have enough hotel rooms.
During a Wednesday interview on the “Hugh Hewitt” show, McDaniel acknowledged that if Jacksonville was selected that some hotels would be “a little further out.”
Alex Isenstadt contributed to this report