- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2020

NAPLES, Fla. — The Sunshine State is relishing what it considers a lucky break in getting to host the 2020 Republican National Convention after North Carolina’s governor refused to relax the state’s coronavirus shutdown enough to allow a big party for President Trump’s reelection run.

The influx of business that the nominating convention is expected to bring to Jacksonville will give the state a big boost at a key moment in its reemergence from its coronavirus-induced economic downturn, officials say.

“National conventions have the potential to create hundreds of direct jobs with an associated tens of millions of dollars in labor income, draw tens of thousands of visitors to the host city and inject $100+ million into the local economy,” Erin Isaac, communications director for the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee, told The Washington Times.

“This convention is a substantial boost for Florida tourism and we are proud to be a part of such a historic event.”

The selection of Florida to host the event also has energized grassroots volunteers in Mr. Trump’s newly adopted home state.

“The president — because Florida is his home state — weighed in and said see if you can find a good venue in Florida,” said Peter Feaman, a Republican National Committee member in Florida.

The RNC had been working for about two years planning the convention in Charlotte where Mr. Trump would accept the nomination. Now members have two months to set the stage nearly 400 miles further south.

Jacksonville’s Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena is the likely space that will be tapped for the shindig. It can hold about 15,000 people.

Charlotte isn’t completely cut out, Mr. Feaman said. Committee meetings will be held there the week before the convention because the city’s mayor worked with party officials.

About 300 to 400 people are expected to attend the committee meetings, which handle the party rules and platform.

But the celebration and most events that draw thousands of people will be held the following week in Jacksonville after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, refused to commit to having the massive event in his state because of social distancing policies.

Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican who represents some of the Jacksonville-area suburbs, praised RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel for helping move the major events to Florida.

“This was really a team effort when we saw that the president wasn’t pleased with how things were going in North Carolina,” Mr. Waltz said Monday on “Fox and Friends.” “The business community needs this shot in the arm and they are ready to roll out the red carpet.”

He said the events in Jacksonville can be held safely.

“I think you’re going to see more handwashing stations than you would see at a fine French restaurant,” he said. “You’re going to see GOP hand sanitizer everywhere.”

The Republican Party has already reserved 10,000 hotel rooms, according to local reports.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, beat out several other cities vying for the relocated convention, including Nashville, Tennessee, Dallas and Miami.

Jacksonville has more than 22 miles of beaches and is expected to draw millions of visitors after being placed in the media spotlight, Ms. Isaac said.

Mr. Feaman said the costs of political conventions and the security are always a concern, but local businesses are expected to help defray the expenses.

• David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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