GOP tentatively decides on Jacksonville for site of convention

GOP tentatively decides on Jacksonville for site of convention
© Greg Nash

The Republican National Committee has tentatively decided on Jacksonville, Fla., as the site to host the Republican National Convention's main festivities, two sources familiar with the discussions have told The Hill.

Originally, the event was supposed to be held Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE and GOP officials moved to relocate the convention after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said that the party would have to begin planning for a pared-down gathering due to the public health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, top RNC officials have been searching for a city that could accommodate both the large influx of guests as well as Trump's desire to have large crowds during the convention.

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The decision to host the event in Jacksonville was first reported by The Washington Post.

Multiple governors have thrown their hats into the ring, with both Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempGeorgia GOP Senate candidates cite abortion in pushing Ginsburg replacement The politically neglected minority: Asian Americans and COVID-19 Trump administration moves to exempt teachers from quarantine requirements MORE (R) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump faces tricky choice on Supreme Court pick DeSantis wants to protect college students from punishment for not following COVID-19 rules Texas governor proposes stiffer penalties for organizing, participating in 'riots' MORE offering to hold the event in their respective states.

Trump has talked to DeSantis about holding the event in Florida and RNC officials visited Jacksonville this week to tour potential sites for the convention.

GOP officials see Jacksonville — and Florida, more broadly — as a good choice, because it is run by a Republican mayor, Lenny Curry, who has already expressed an interest in bringing the convention to his city.

While details of how shifting the event would work are still unclear, the business side of the convention and its smaller meetings will still be held in Charlotte, protecting the GOP from possible lawsuits that could arise from the party straying from its contractual agreement to hold the event in North Carolina.

The sources told The Hill that there are still questions about whether Jacksonville will have enough hotel rooms available to host the event, but that likely won't be a dealbreaker.

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A handful of other cities have also been under consideration, including Nashville, Phoenix and Dallas. Each of those cities is led by a Democratic mayor, however, which Republicans see as a potential drawback.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel declined to say whether the party would move its convention to Jacksonville, but acknowledged that the city “is absolutely in the frontrunning position.”

She said that hotel availability remained the biggest concern that officials have in scouting out a new location for the convention, but added that the party will have to “lock them up” quickly before others book the rooms. McDaniel also noted that hotels in Jacksonville were comparatively inexpensive, though some may be further away from the convention center than those in other cities.

“They’re very inexpensive, which is good,” she told Hewitt. “They’re going to be affordable. They’re going to be a little further out, some of them, if it ends up being there.

The convention is still slated for Aug. 24-27.

Jacksonville is about a six-hour drive or a 90-minute flight from Charlotte, making it feasible for top GOP brass to have low-scale meetings in Charlotte and still be able to attend the convention's marquee events in Jacksonville.

Updated at 11:12 a.m.