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Report: Funds scarce to put on Republican convention in Jacksonville

A New York Times report gives two reasons that some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are hesitant to dig deep into their wallets to help the Republican National Convention Host Committee bankroll the event.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A New York Times report gives two reasons that some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are hesitant to dig deep into their wallets to help the Republican National Convention Host Committee bankroll the event.

1) The surge in coronavirus cases here in Florida has cast a veil of uncertainty on the convention’s future.

2) The same donors already spent tens of millions of dollars footing the bill for a convention in Charlotte that won’t be, to use the Times’ words, anything more than a GOP business meeting.

So far, the big donors aren’t coming through. According to the Times’ report, the majority of delegates are non-committal about even attending the convention.

The Republicans expected to fill the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena Downtown and bring big crowds to Jacksonville, giving the city a major economic boost. Now, that’s all up in the air. People are wondering if the city needs to adopt an alternate game plan.

Appearing on The Morning Show Monday, News4Jax political analyst and head of the JU Public Policy Institute Rick Mullaney said the city needs to adopt a couple of backup plans.

“Some of that could be what the convention looks like. For example, the original plan was going to be 15,000 people, no masks, with no social distancing.,” Mullaney said. “Whether you are going to have masks, whether you are going to have social distancing, whether it is going to be indoors -- some of it is going to be outdoors. Whether a portion of it goes virtual or big parts of it go virtual. Whether you do a scaled-down version. A lot of that hangs in the balance. And I’m sure some of that, like I said, will be dependent on fundraising, but much of that is COVID-19.”

With money literally frozen while people wait and see what happens with the pandemic, there is also concern that the city may be left holding the bag one way or another.

Mullaney’s take?

“Well, a lot of this, to quote the mayor is, ‘private fundraising for a lot of that.’ That doesn’t mean taxpayers’ dollars. But one of the challenges here is that if the surge continues and if the plan remains the same, what is this convention going to look like?” You could be in a situation where, if people don’t come, it’s a problem. And you could be in a situation if they do come it’s a problem. So, to get out of that, I think the mayor was very wise to create a requirement that we wear masks.”

Mullaney added that both the RNC and the city must be flexible based on what happens with both fundraising and Florida’s coronavirus infection rate over the next few weeks.

GOP officials have a different take, according to the New York Times report. They call it a mad dash for cash to a special election. The report indicates Republican officials believe a condensed time frame creates anxiety, but say the money ultimately comes through.

One chunk of money for the convention has come through. The mayor’s office confirmed Monday that the city received National Special Security Event designation for the RNC. Spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton said this means that federal agencies, including the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Administration, will take over planning and financially back security costs for the convention.


About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.