Vice president stops in Jacksonville to thank RNC host committee

Republican National Convention slated for late August in Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Fla. – Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks Saturday evening at an event at Epping Forest in San Jose for the Jacksonville host committee for the Republican National Convention.

On Saturday, the crowd grew outside of Epping Forest, awaiting his arrival.

“In Pence we trust, truly,” said Janaray Sternfeld, while holding a Trump Pence 2020 sign.

Pence and the second lady arrived at Naval Air Station Jacksonville around 3:30 p.m. ahead of the 5 p.m. speech.

The event was closed to the public and to the press, but the vice president’s motorcade and a police escort could be seen arriving as supporters waved flags and chanted.

A spokesperson for the RNC host committee said the vice president was at the event to thank the committee for the work being done to plan the convention, especially on short notice.

Pastor Charles DeWitt told News4Jax he was invited to the event because of his role in the vice president’s faith. He said the vice president and his wife were very warm and grateful.

“They’re anticipating having a wonderful convention, that they want the opportunity to tell the United States all that the team is done,” DeWitt said.

It was announced in June that the Republican National Convention, which was originally set to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, would be moving to Jacksonville after the president and North Carolina’s governor disagreed over the size of the event and the precautions needed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re so excited and we’re ready to have it and we’re preparing and we will be ready,” said Janaray Sternfeld, a supporter of President Donald Trump.

Duval GOP Chairman Dean Black said the vice president thanked the host committee for the hard work they’re doing, and for what they’re about to do.

“We have 2 1/2 months to do an event that usually takes 2 1/2 years. But the host committee has a handle on it and we’re going to make history right here in Jacksonville,” Black said.

History that is also phased with a global pandemic. Black said leaders have made it clear they will conduct the convention in a responsible manner, saying, “we can do both.”

News4Jax received a picture from inside Saturday’s event of guests standing in squares during the speech for social distancing.

“He also made mention of the fact that we have added 7 million jobs since the pandemic hit. President Trump helped to rebuild our economy and make it the greatest economy in our history. And now that a pandemic has struck, he is just the man to rebuild it yet again,” Black said.

Black also mentioned the more than 5,000 volunteers signed up for the convention. He reiterated the fact that they are going to host the event responsibly.

RELATED: Meet the Jacksonville Host Committee for the Republican National Convention

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed Thursday that the Republican National Convention next month in Jacksonville will be “a safe environment,” despite widespread concerns about increasing coronavirus cases across Florida.

“We’re responsible people and we trust in God and you can’t let something like that stop our whole world and most especially our county,” Sternfeld said.

The vice president and second lady will leave Jacksonville around 7 p.m. Pence has no public events scheduled during his brief visit to the River City.

Preparations for the RNC continued Thursday with Jacksonville businesses pitching their products and services outside the Prime Osborn Convention Center. A total of 77 vendors took part, hoping to be selected as “preferred vendors” for the event.

As preparations continue for the Aug.24-27 convention, some are still hoping to keep the event out of Jacksonville or scale it down considerably.

Residents and business owners near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena -- where President Trump’s renomination event is scheduled to be held in August -- have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare the Republican National Convention a public nuisance.

Should the court declare the event a nuisance, the lawsuit asks the arena remain closed to the event, or if opened, that admittance be limited to no more than 2,500 people.

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