Illinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment'

Illinois House Republican leader won't attend GOP convention in Florida: 'It's not going to be a safe environment'
© Greg Nash

A top Illinois Republican said he will skip the party’s national convention in Florida next month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin told reporters during a Tuesday videoconference that the event in Jacksonville is “not going to be a safe environment.”

A spokesperson for Durkin told the outlet that while he is not a delegate for the convention, high-ranking officials often attend. He participated in one day of the 2016 convention in Cleveland.

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The official said he would focus on trying to cut into the Democrats’ supermajority in the Illinois House in the November general election.

The Republican Party announced plans last month to move the main convention event from Charlotte, N.C. — where it was originally scheduled to take place — to Jacksonville after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE objected to the North Carolina governor’s demand that the party stage a scaled-back convention with social distancing and masks.

Jacksonville announced earlier this month that it would mandate that people wear face masks in public indoor locations where social distancing is not possible. Attendees will also be tested for the coronavirus daily.

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens previously said in a statement to The Hill that the party "is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time." 

"We are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available PPE [personal protective equipment], aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing," Ahrens said.

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As many as six Republicans in the U.S. Senate have said they will not attend.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Tensions flare as GOP's Biden probe ramps up  MORE (R-Iowa) became the first senator to say he would not attend, citing concerns about the coronavirus. He was quickly followed by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderNegotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mounts Chamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive MORE (R-Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsUnemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Obama announces first wave of 2020 endorsements Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official 300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee MORE (R-Alaska) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyNRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (R-Utah).

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEstablishment-backed Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas GOP Senate primary The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Progress slow on coronavirus bill Five primary races to watch on Tuesday MORE (R-Kan.) said last week that he has scheduling conflicts.

Florida has seen a massive upswing in new coronavirus cases in recent weeks after the state relaxed restrictions, reporting 12,624 new cases on Monday. 

A group of attorneys in Jacksonville filed a lawsuit last week attempting to block the event, saying the convention would be "a nuisance injurious to the health [and] welfare" of the community.