Lt. Gov. Forest weighs in as blame flies over RNC convention move

Thursday, June 4, 2020
Political battle jeopardizes RNC convention in Charlotte
Political battle jeopardizes RNC convention in Charlotte.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Late Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted his intention to move the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina, saying "Governor Roy Cooper and his representatives refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena."

In response, Cooper tweeted: "We have been committed to a safe RNC Convention in North Carolina and it's unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe."

Earlier in the day, Cooper said at a media briefing that "we think it is unlikely that we would be to the point at the end of August to be able to have a jam-packed 19,000-person convention."

Amid the political sparring, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who will run for governor against Cooper, said he talked to the President's Chief of Staff.

"He told me the President was not happy about the situation," Forest said. "He needs to be able to host a convention where he knows he's going to be able to show up and have a full house."

Forest said it will be a massive blow to the Charlotte region, especially the hospitality industry, which shut down during the pandemic.

"Making plans to shut down an event which could be a huge boost to the economy in the state of North Carolina three months from now seems to be very short-sighted," Forest said.

A lawmaker from Charlotte defended Cooper's actions.

"The Governor is trying his best to figure out a way to make sure that this could happen safely, and it's very disappointing that some people have tried to politicize this issue," said Democratic Rep. Chaz Beasley, District 92, of Mecklenburg. "We need to make sure that when there are any kinds of gatherings of any type in North Carolina, that they're safe and that they're done in the most-safe way possible."

Forest said Republicans were willing to put safety protocols in place at the convention for sanitizing and temperature checks.

"Right now, you can't blame the President for not having it here because he has no guarantee that he can actually have it, so I'd say that's on the Governor's watch right now," Forest said.

The RNC convention likely won't be in Charlotte.

Beasley said safety comes first.

"I get that people want to have an RNC in North Carolina," Beasley said. "I understand that they want that to happen. But I think that ultimately this comes down to the safety and public health of the people of North Carolina. There has to be a way to do it in a way that's going to keep people safe."

An RNC official said they're still hoping to host official business for the convention in Charlotte but that the President's formal nomination would be somewhere else.

The Charlotte 2020 Host Committee issued a statement Wednesday.

"We were disappointed to learn of plans to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte and that RNC officials are actively visiting other cities for the relocation of the convention.

Our team has worked diligently and in good faith for over two years and this decision will unfortunately impact small businesses, the hospitality sector and other industries and dedicated workers counting on the positive benefit of convention activities and events. We had hoped this convention would be an opportunity to showcase our region's vibrancy to an international audience. We are working with our partners to better understand the implications of recent events and any potential path forward."