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RNC in Question as Local Leaders Respond to Trump Threats

As Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration continues rolling out phases of a plan to reopen North Carolina, the World Health Organization warned of a “second peak” in areas where safety protocols are being rolled back. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump kicked off Memorial Day by calling on Cooper to make a nearly impossible promise that full attendance will be allowed at the Republican National Convention (RNC), scheduled for Charlotte August 24-27.

The RNC was originally expected to bring around 20,000 in-seat participants and around 50,000 visitors to Charlotte, most of whom will be congregating in Uptown, with the largest events and gatherings scheduled for Spectrum Center and the Charlotte Convention Center.  

This morning, the president tweeted his feelings on Cooper’s reluctance to make such a promise: “I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” Trump tweeted. 

He added: “In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

Trump is not officially a party to the convention agreement contract, which is between the city of Charlotte and the Republican National Committee. 

Local leaders respond to RNC threat

However, his tweets have garnered responses from a slew of local leaders. A joint statement from the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office read: “We are in constant communication with our local and federal counterparts to plan and prepare for a safe Republican National Convention (RNC). The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local stakeholders will continue to plan for the RNC while respecting national and state guidance regarding the pandemic. We are working with stakeholders to develop guidelines for several large events planned for Charlotte in the coming months including the RNC and anticipate providing that guidance in June.” 

This afternoon, Mayor Vi Lyles, who was an ardent supporter of bringing the convention to Charlotte to begin with, tweeted her thoughts about Donald Trump’s threats, stating, “With the health and safety of our residents and visitors being the top priority, the city of Charlotte will continue to follow guidance from Governor Cooper and public health professionals in determining the best and safest way to host the Republican National Convention.”

She continued, “While I’ve remained consistent in my statements regarding the RNC being held in Charlotte, the science and data will ultimately determine what we will collectively do for our city.”

During this Memorial Day weekend, many Republicans are more concerned about the state of North Carolina missing an opportunity to grab the national spotlight, regardless of risk. It appears that the threat of a second wave of coronavirus, either leading up to or inspired by the RNC, has yet to cross their minds. 

Vice President Mike Pence is supporting claims that the convention is crucial for North Carolina. In an interview on Fox News Pence noted, “What you’re hearing the president say today is just a very reasonable request of the governor of North Carolina,” Pence said.

What is the plan for the Democratic National Convention? 

On the other side of the aisle, DNC leaders are taking a different approach and attempting to host their conference online. Upon debating whether or not the virtual conference would be suitable, the Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, who headed the 2008 and 2016 Democratic conventions, told Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball blog, “…canceling the in-person convention is a rising possibility, especially now that the Olympics are postponed for a year. It will be difficult to justify gathering 50,000 people in one place when the very next week it would have been the Olympics and they’d been canceled.”

“If some positive event occurs, such as a very early vaccine or drastically improved testing, then maybe an in-person convention can be pulled off successfully,” Colorado State University political scientist Kyle Saunders added in the same article. “I have to think a convention is unlikely if we are assessing things today.”

DNC leader Seema Nanda has also suggested postponing the convention in hope that this pandemic takes a different turn. However, by the looks of Donald Trump’s determination to hold a full RNC in Charlotte or move it out of the state altogether, we are now in for a showdown between public safety and a party in the coming months.

Ryan Pitkin contributed reporting to this story

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