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Mike Pence says GOP ’excited about coming’ to Florida for RNC convention

Staff Writer
Walton Sun
Walton Sun

On a day when Florida reported an unprecedented 5-digit increase in COVID-19 cases, Vice President Mike Pence said the GOP convention events slated for Jacksonville next month are still a go.

“Let me say we are excited about coming to Jacksonville,” Pence said while speaking in Tampa alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Pence added that there are “sophisticated plans” for a “safe, healthy environment” for the Republican National Convention gathering in Northeast Florida. But he did not elaborate on those plans.

Asked about the sharp increase in coronavirus cases in Florida over the past month, more than 100,000 including a record 10,109 reported Thursday, Pence said the primary goal is “to do everything in our power to keep the numbers down.”

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And he said, to continue seeing jobs created as businesses open up.

“We don’t have to choose between good health and a strong economy,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo ripped the GOP’s plans to assemble in Jacksonville. She said it was “reckless” to “push to hold a full convention with ’no face coverings’ and ’no social distancing’ in our state.”

The RNC has not issued details on its plans for the Jacksonville portion of the event, other than it will feature President Trump’s speech accepting the GOP presidential nomination.

The RNC was scheduled to meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, another important battleground state. But Trump demanded the convention be withdrawn from Charlotte when state and local officials there said GOP officials would have to institute strict mask and social distancing policies.

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“Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love. Now, @NC_Governor Roy Cooper and his representatives refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena - Spend millions of dollars, have everybody arrive, and...millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State. Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention,” Trump tweeted on June 2.

Florida, which is the now the president’s adopted home state, immediately emerged as a favorite to host the event. Two weeks later, RNC officials announced that Jacksonville would host Trump's Aug. 27 nomination acceptance speech.

Portions of the four-day Republican National Convention, however, will still be held in Charlotte.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a high-profile Republican, said weeks ago the event would be a “tremendous opportunity” for the city. He told a Fox News audience last month that Trump would speak to a full venue at Jacksonville's Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena. The site seats 15,000.

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On Wednesday, Jacksonville city officials announced they will require people to wear face masks in public and indoor locations. They said they haven't decided whether to require masks during the convention, which is scheduled Aug. 24-27.