Republicans to require coronavirus testing at party convention

Andrew Cummings
July 9, 2020

Among a list of reasons against the city hosting the event, the complaint argues that the event which will congregate thousands of people in and around the Jacksonville arena "under the circumstances and practices encouraged and required by the Republican National Committee and its leadership to be a nuisance injurious to the health, welfare and property rights of plaintiffs, in particular, and the health and welfare of the community of Jacksonville".

On the Republican side, three GOP senators - Iowa's Chuck Grassley, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander and Maine's Susan Collins - said this week that they would skip the events in Jacksonville.

The existing plan for convention, which is slotted for the end of August, will involve President Trump accepting the Republican nomination for a second-term and giving a speech at the Jacksonville arena on the last day of the convention. He also noted it will mark the first time he won't attend in 40 years. "And I'm not going to go because of the virus situation", Grassley told The Des Moines Register and others.

Quadrennial political conventions are typically flashy affairs, made for television that require years of planning and tens of millions of dollars to organize. And 71% of registered Duval County voters recently surveyed by the University of North Florida said they were "very" or "somewhat concerned" about the COVID-19 transmission related to the convention.

Aides for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska could not immediately be reached. To attract donors, Charlotte convention planners offered a variety of benefits to large contributors, including exclusive campaign briefings, access to luxury skyboxes, and priority reservations at premium hotels.

Now, as pandemic cases spiral upward in Florida, there are new calls to scale down the event there.

A statement from Alexander's office didn't directly point to coronavirus as a concern, but instead said that his spot should be used by someone else.

Alexander, an honorary chairman of the Tennessee campaign for President Donald Trump, won't attend "because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had", said Ashton Davies, Alexander's communications director, in a statement. Alexander will retire next year.

As for Collins, an aide said she's skipping as part of a long-running tradition not to go during reelection years. In 2016, when she was not on the ballot, Collins attended the convention despite saying she would not support Trump.

Collins, who faces a tough re-election fight in ME that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, never planned to attend because she does not go to national conventions in years she is running for re-election, a spokesman said. But aides said at least two key Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said they'll be there.

Grassley, 86, has attended every RNC since 1980.

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