RNC picks Florida for Trump's nomination speech after spat with North Carolina

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June 11 (UPI) -- The Republican National Committee announced Thursday that Jacksonville, Fla., has been selected to host President Donald Trump's re-nomination celebration after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper told the committee it could not hold a full-scale event due to coronavirus restrictions.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced that the committee voted unanimously to continue the national convention as planned in Charlotte, N.C., from Aug. 24-27 but that Trump will give his acceptance speech at the 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in the sunshine state.

"We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville," McDaniel said 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."

McDaniel blamed the location shift on coronavirus restrictions in North Carolina and Cooper's unwillingness to "work with the RNC to offer guidelines."

North Carolina has been in the second phase of its three-phase reopening plan since May 26, limiting retail and restaurant capacity to 50 percent, indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor events to 25.

The order runs until at least June 26, but despite overall indicators remaining stable, daily COVID-19 infections continue to rise signaling "a need to take a more modest step forward in Phase 2 than originally envisioned," according to the North Carolina government website.

The RNC had sent a letter May 30 to Cooper demanding a "full convention" of 19,000 delegates, alternative delegates, staff volunteers, elected officials and guests at the Spectrum Center. The committee also said they would require "full hotels and restaurants and bars at capacity."

Cooper, a Democrat, replied that he appreciated the RNC's earlier acknowledgments that for the convention to be safe it would have to be scaled back, but that due to health risks posed by COVID-19 a full-scale event would not be possible.

"The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity," Cooper wrote in a letter to McDaniel and RNC President and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly dated June 3. "We are happy to continue talking with you about what a scaled-down convention would look like and we still await your proposed plan for that."

Hours later, Trump tweeted the RNC would be looking for another location.

"Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and jobs for the State," the Republican president said, but they would look elsewhere due to Cooper's refusal "to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena."

The next day, Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida governor, said in an interview with Fox & Friends that his state would like to host the event.

"Florida is honored to host this special event where we will celebrate the re-nomination of President Donald J. Trump," DeSantis said in a statement on Thursday. "Jacksonville is a great city that will showcase Florida's energy, facilities, entrepreneurship and commitment to bring together the delegates of the Republican Party at a historic time in our nation's history."

The announcement came as the Florida Department of Health reported nearly 1,700 new COVID-19 cases, a daily record for the state.

Despite experiencing an overall increase in cases over the past few weeks, the state along with many others has been paring back restrictions and on Thursday DeSantis announced recommendations for schools to reopen with the aim for them to be at full capacity by August.

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