Republican officials on Saturday sent a letter to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper saying the GOP plans to move ahead with having the convention on August 24, which would entail 19,000 people including delegates, alternates, staff, volunteers, officials and guests, at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.
The letter from Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Republican National Convention President Marcia Lee Kelly also said the GOP would need they would need full hotels, restaurants and bars at capacity.
Republican leaders have called on the Democratic governor to greenlight the party’s proposal by June 3.
Republican officials planning their party’s convention swapped their list of demands with Cooper this week, ahead of the August event in Charlotte. On Monday, President Trump threatened to move his party’s convention from North Carolina if Cooper did not lift restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, to allow for “full attendance.”
GOP leaders initially planned for the event to include “19,000 delegates, alternate delegates, staff, volunteers, elected officials, and guests.” In a follow-up memo to Cooper Saturday, McDaniel and Kelly said that is still the case.
Hours after Governor Cooper called on the RNC on Thursday to outline how the party plans to conduct a safe national convention, the RNC sent a list of health and safety protocols for approval.
GOP officials plan to make masks available to convention attendees upon request, though wearing face coverings will not be mandatory. Recommended by the Centers for Disease Control to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, wearing face masks is one measure the party leader — President Trump — does not follow.
The RNC also promised “anti-bacterial gel will be widely available” in the arena and an “aggressive sanitizing protocol” will be in place for all public areas. Party officials hired physician Dr. Jeffrey Runge as a senior adviser for convention planning, three weeks ago.
Governor Cooper’s administration has requested Republican officials outline plans to test convention participants and indicate whether the president still intends to host “people together in a crowdlike” setting without social distancing.
“While North Carolina is now in Phase 2 of easing restrictions, this past week we had our highest day of new lab confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, and we have increasing numbers of people hospitalized with COVID-19,” Cooper’s administration wrote in a memo to McDaniel and Kelly, Friday. “The status of COVID-19 infections in our state and in the Charlotte area continues to rapidly evolve, thus, it will be important to have several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the public health situation.”
The ongoing saga between party officials and Governor Roy Cooper began with a series of tweets from the president earlier this week. The president said Monday that Cooper would need to make “a fast decision” about whether the party could hold its convention at full capacity, and he complained that the North Carolina Democrat has “been acting very, very slowly and very suspiciously.”
“We have to know before we spend millions and millions of dollars on an arena to make it magnificent for the convention,” Mr. Trump remarked. “If he feels that he’s not going to do it, all he has to do is tell us and then we’ll have to pick another location. And I will tell you a lot of locations want it.”
Republican governors in Florida and Georgia welcomed the idea of hosting the convention in their respective states.
But former GOP Convention officials say the RNC could face legal challenges if it packs up the convention and takes it out of North Carolina. The party signed a contractual agreement with the city of Charlotte upon accepting its bid to host the Convention in July 2018.
In April, the Charlotte City Council accepted a $50 million security grant from the Justice Department. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has already begun administering the money for security preparations for the convention.
Earlier this month, the president and chief executive officer for the Charlotte 2020 Host Committee, John Lassiter, told the Charlotte Business Journal that the local body has raised more than $50 million of its $70 million fundraising goal for this year’s convention. That money would not move with the convention to a new venue in Florida or Georgia.
“Raising the dollars for another convention in another city – forget the infrastructural requirements – that’s a huge challenge,” a former Republican convention official told CBS News.
“The president wants to have the convention here in North Carolina,” said North Carolina Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley. “We have no intention of moving it unless, of course, the governor were to make it impossible for us to host the convention, and I frankly just don’t think we’re gonna get there.”
Cooper said Thursday that North Carolina was ready to host the convention “in a safe way” and suggested that the RNC merely needed to submit its plans, just as NASCAR did for its recent race in the state.
“When NASCAR wanted to run the race in North Carolina, we asked them for plans about how they’re going to run the race in a safe way. NASCAR submitted those plans to our health officials, health officials gave feedback…and they ended up putting on a very safe and entertaining NASCAR race,” said Cooper. “We hope the same thing can happen with the RNC convention.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misidentified the President and Chief Executive Officer for the Charlotte 2020 Host Committee. It is John Lassiter, and the story has been updated.