Kemp courts GOP convention after Trump threatens to dump Charlotte

    Gov. Brian Kemp invited the GOP to move its national convention to Georgia after President Donald Trump said he'll take it away from Charlotte over potential COVID-19 restrictions. Several hundred supporters attended Trump's launch of his "Black Voices for Trump" coalition at the Georgia World Congress Center last fall. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

    Gov. Brian Kemp this week is pushing for Georgia to host the Republican National Convention following a warning from President Donald Trump that he’s ready to pull the August event out of North Carolina if the GOP can’t pack a Charlotte convention hall and arena.

    After Trump tweeted Monday morning he needs a quick response from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper that everyone can attend as planned, Kemp tweeted Tuesday that the state’s world-class facilities, workforce, and hospitality industry is ready to step in. 

    Hosting a wide-open convention expected to attract tens of thousands of people would mark a significant break with recent safety guidelines as Georgia continues reopening after shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Trump said in a string of tweets that a prompt response from Cooper is needed or “we will be reluctantly forced” to find another location for the Aug. 24-27 convention.

    Holding such a large event also goes against current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the size of gatherings and to follow social distancing measures. Kemp recently lifted many restrictions to allow service businesses from hair salons to restaurants to reopen, but large sports events, concerts and other events that pack arenas are still banned.

    With the convention several months away, Republican leaders are banking on having time to prepare to curtail the spread of the airborne virus safely. The Democrats rescheduled their convention for August in Milwaukee and are allowing for the possibility some delegates could vote online.

    The state Republican Party is throwing its support behind bringing the convention to Georgia. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic convention, the only time the state hosted the party’s nomination event.

    But Atlanta’s mayor said she doesn’t see how the city can get ready for such a big convention so quickly.

    “Like North Carolina, the City of Atlanta is following a phased, data-driven approach to reopening,” Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms said in a statement. “That plan does not contemplate hosting a large gathering event in August. In fact, several long-standing City-supported and sponsored events have already been canceled in order to comply with CDC guidelines.”

    Georgia, Florida and Texas are among the candidates to replace North Carolina if a change is made because those states are moving quicker than others to lift business restrictions, Vice President Mike Pence said Monday during an interview on Fox News Fox & Friends.

    “We look forward to working with Gov. Cooper on getting a swift response and if need be moving the national convention to a state that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that we can gather there,” Pence said.

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.