Cooper taking hardline approach with GOP officials

Wants written plans for convention, with options

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper took a no-nonsense, almost rigid stance when asked about recent comments from President Donald Trump threatening to move August’s Republican National Convention away from Charlotte if his demands are not met.

Cooper told a statewide press conference he’s asking officials with the convention to submit their plans, with options, in writing — something he required before NASCAR was allowed to return to racing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Cooper cast a semi-political and almost skeptical tone in his response to the president’s comments on Twitter before laying out what he expects from the RNC.

“I’m not surprised by anything I see on Twitter,” Cooper said. “I will say that it’s OK for political conventions to be political. But pandemic response cannot be.”

Preliminary talks have taken place, Cooper said, talks where he has laid out his requirements and sought the RNC response.

“Already, we’ve been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention that they would need to run and the kind of options that we need on the table,” Cooper said. “We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina.”

Cooper said the conversations with RNC leaders were similar to the ones which took place with NASCAR and are currently underway with other major arenas and sports teams including the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Hornets.

“Everybody wants to get back into action soon, but I think everybody knows we have to take some steps to make sure that people are protected,” he said. “This virus is still going to be with us in August and we have to take steps to protect people.”

Cooper outlined what the preliminary talks entailed.

“We have asked the RNC to present to us in writing, their proposals,” Cooper said. “We’ve had discussions with them about a very limited convention and all the way up. And we want to see in writing what their plans are; we asked NASCAR to do the very same thing and NASCAR did a good job this weekend of executing their plan of face coverings, of social distancing, signage, cleaning.”

Cooper said he’s involving state health officials in the process to evaluate any proposals by the RNC in an attempt to make sure the medical community is in line with the final decisions regarding the convention.

“We have asked them to submit those plans to our public health officials,” Cooper said. “They have someone hired to advise them as well. And we look forward to the back and forth on this. We’d like to reach a resolution that everybody can be reasonable about that puts public health, safety, the science and the facts as the number one thing we’re trying to do here.”

In his tweets this past weekend, the president told followers he wants a full, no limitations convention when he accepts the nomination for his second term in office. Trump tweeted he would move the convention if his requests are not met.

Georgia and Florida officials have offered their states as alternative options.

When asked about Georgia’s offer, Cooper stood his ground and reemphasized the need to receive proposals in writing and calling for RNC officials to be flexible in their plans.

“We want to continue to receive the plans from the RNC and have our health officials discuss these issues with the RNC,” Cooper said. “I supported having the convention in North Carolina, but we have to put the health and safety of North Carolinians as the guiding star in this process.”

Cooper wants to see the plans for the convention and, specifically, plans for public safety.

“I think the RNC understands that,” he said. “And just as we did with NASCAR, and as we’ll do with other large organizations, we want to see their plans, what their options are, we’ll review those and our health officials will give feedback on them. And I hope we can find some kind of reasonable accommodations. But we’re not going to sacrifice the health and safety of North Carolinians, and that’s the bottom line.”

Talks between state officials and GOP officials are scheduled to continue over the next few weeks until a final decision can be reached which is agreeable to both sides, Cooper said.

The Republican National Convention is scheduled to take place in Charlotte Aug. 24-28.

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2037.

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