GOP eyeing new convention sites, raising hopes of Arizona officials

Then-candidate Donald Trump addresses a campaign crowd at the Phoenix Convention Center in 2016. Arizona Republicans hope for another visit from Trump, after the Republican National Committee said it is looking to move some or all of the 2020 convention in August out of Charlotte. (Photo by Karla Liriano/Cronkite News)

With the Republican National Committee actively seeking new homes for its August convention, some in Arizona are angling for the state to get in line with the long list of other potential suitors.

The RNC may still hold part of the convention in Charlotte – or it may not – as officials there say lingering COVID-19 concerns may limit convention crowd sizes. But it is looking for a new city to host President Donald Trump’s acceptance speech, after Trump took to Twitter recently to criticize possible crowd limits.

Several states have mounted bids to land part or all of the convention, but some Arizona Republicans are asking, why not here?

“How fitting would it be for President Trump to once again become our party’s nominee for president?” asked Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward in an opinion piece in Tuesday’s Arizona Republic. She said the RNC should “consider this an invitation to hold the nominating convention in the great state of Arizona.”

But the state would have to beat out at least three other states – four, if you count North Carolina, which is still in talks for part of the convention – for the late August event.

The scramble began last week when Trump tweeted that the party would be “forced to find” another city if North Carolina officials could not guarantee that the nominating hall could be fully occupied.

Party officials proposed strict testing and screening of convention-goers, but no limits on numbers, and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said last week that the state would not “sacrifice the health and safety of North Carolinians,” according to news reports.

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Trump responded by tweeting Tuesday that the party would start looking elsewhere.

“Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of…millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State,” Trump’s tweet said. “Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

An RNC official said in an email Wednesday that negotiations with North Carolina continue and that “we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte,” if the state will “allow more than 10 people in a room.” But the acceptance speech, typically made to an audience of thousands, will be somewhere else.

“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city,” the statement said.

Ward is not the only Arizonan angling for a piece of the convention. Phoenix Council Member Sal DiCiccio told KTAR News last week hosting the convention would benefit the state’s economy, and that the state has the facilities to pull it off on short notice.

“I think we need to be looking at this as a community, not just Phoenix. It needs to be looked at from Glendale, Gilbert, Chandler, tribal communities – everyone working together. We will find a venue for this,” he said on “The Mike Broomhead Show.”

In a nod to Arizona’s August heat, Ward said that would still be better than the humidity conventioners would face in Florida or Georgia, two other states mentioned as possible sites.

She did not mention Tennessee, where Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday that his office has had early discussions with GOP leaders about moving the convention to Nashville. He said he thinks convention officials could tour the city Thursday.

“We certainly would be interested in welcoming that to our city. It would be a great opportunity for us to build upon the economic recovery that is already occurring,” Lee said.

When asked last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said the president is welcome in Arizona “any time he would like to come” but he did not push aggressively for the convention.

“This is the president’s sole decision,” Ducey said last Thursday. “I expect him to make the decision that’s in the best interest of the election cycle and the electoral map.”

Not everyone is anxious to talk about the move, however. A statement from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s office said: “Our community is not over COVID-19. Discussions about gatherings of any kind during this pandemic must be led by medical professionals and no one else.”

-Cronkite News reporter Nicole Soto contributed to this report in Phoenix.

Lisa Diethelm

News Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Lisa Diethelm grew up in California and expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a certificate in philosophy, rhetoric and literature. Diethelm is a digital reporter for Cronkite News. She also serves as the editor in chief and politics editor for the Downtown Devil.

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