JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville, Florida, has been selected to host the celebration marking President Donald Trump’s acceptance of his party’s nomination for reelection, the Republican National Committee chairwoman said Thursday.
Ronna McDaniel made the announcement a day after saying that Jacksonville was a front-runner to hold the event. The governor of North Carolina, the official host of this summer’s Republican National Convention, had balked at promising Trump a full-blown convention in Charlotte free from social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville,” McDaniel said. “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 said the event would be held at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds 15,000 people. She said more details would be released in the coming weeks.
The party’s more mundane business, including discussions over the platform, will still be held in Charlotte because of contractual obligations.
The RNC had spent the last week scouting locations after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper rejected Trump’s demand that the convention be allowed to take place Aug. 24-27 without social distancing measures.
The Jacksonville area, home to a major military base, has a population of about 1.5 million. Mayor Len Curry is a former chairperson of the state Republican Party, and the area is the home base of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, a key Trump ally.
“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 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.”
Curry called the announcement “a huge win” for Jacksonville.
“The opportunity to highlight all our city has to offer and the tremendous economic impact is one I enthusiastically welcome, and we look forward to hosting an exciting event for all delegates and guests to enjoy,” Curry said in a statement provided by the RNC.
Florida’s prize of 29 electoral votes is considered crucial to Trump’s bid for a second term. That celebration could generate at least $100 million in revenues for the host city, perhaps more.
But Ben Frazier, a black activist with the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, said the event would be disruptive to the city during a time of racial tension and a pandemic.
“I only see this exacerbating these problems,” he said. “The mayor’s concerned about the money the city could make. We’re concerned about the lives of people here in Jacksonville more than anything else. We don’t simply need to be concerned about dollars and cents.”
Thomas reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Fla., contributed to this report.