North Carolina Governor Demands Smaller Republican Convention

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is insisting that the Republican convention in August be scaled back out of concern about the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter Monday responding to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and the committee’s president, Marcia Lee Kelly, Cooper said his state could not agree to their demands for a “‘full convention’ which includes 19,000 delegates,” as well as “full hotels and restaurants and bars at capacity.”

“As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the Convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Cooper wrote. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.”

Cooper said holding a “scaled-down convention” with fewer participants than the RNC requested, with social distancing measures and face coverings is “a necessity.” He added the state would gladly continue talks to hold a convention with such measures.

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President Donald Trump last week threatened to move the convention to a different city if Cooper would not comply with his request for a convention featuring all 50,000 expected participants.

Cooper’s letter was sent one day before the RNC’s self-imposed June 3 deadline to receive a guarantee from the governor that they could hold a full-fledged event.

In response to Cooper’s letter, McDaniel said she hoped the RNC would be able to continue to hold the convention in Charlotte as planned but would begin to look at other options. She also chided Cooper for not giving specifics.

“It is unfortunate the Governor is dragging his feet on giving us any guidance as to how to move forward with plans to safely conduct our convention,” McDaniel said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The RNC and the state have been sparring for months over how and whether to hold the convention in Charlotte as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, McDaniel sent a letter to Cooper spelling out safety protocols the RNC would follow at the convention, including pre-travel health surveys, daily health questionnaires through an app, thermal scans, aggressive sanitizing and widely available anti-bacterial gel. The list of precautions, however, did not include face masks or social distancing, as requested by North Carolina officials.

As the talks appeared to bog down, other Republican governors have said that they would happily host the convention in their states.

On Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said at a press conference that RNC officials would tour Nashville on Thursday and that his office had “just begun those conversations,” saying the city is “the best place in America to have a convention.”

Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said he was aware of the governor’s interest but that has “not had any official contact with the RNC at this time.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said last week that his state would be happy to host the convention “as best we can in accordance with whatever safety requirements” are needed, and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tweeted that his state would “be honored to safely host” the convention.

On Tuesday morning, three Republicans who represent areas around Charlotte in South and North Carolina in Congress, Representatives Ralph Norman, Dan Bishop and Ted Budd, held a press conference in front of the Spectrum Center calling on Cooper to give guidance on how to have a “full, in-person convention.”

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