Jacksonville sheriff has 'grave doubts' about Republican convention

Adding to the GOP's troubles: Jacksonville's sheriff has "grave doubts" about security plans for the quickly approaching Republican convention.
Image: The Republican National Committee holds a media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention that will be held from Aug. 24-27, 2020
The Republican National Committee holds a media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention that will be held from Aug. 24-27, 2020 to choose the 2020 Republican presidential nominee in the Spectrum Center Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov. 12, 2019.Jim Bourg / Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

According to the current schedule, the Republican National Convention will begin in 34 days. The number of problems plaguing the quadrennial gathering, however, are piling up, including a new one that Politico highlighted yesterday: the Jacksonville sheriff has "grave doubts" about plans to provide security for the nominating convention.

“As we're talking today, we are still not close to having some kind of plan that we can work with that makes me comfortable that we're going to keep that event and the community safe,” Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams told POLITICO. “It’s not my event to plan, but I can just tell you that what has been proposed in my opinion is not achievable right now ... from a law enforcement standpoint, from a security standpoint.”

I suppose this is likely to be the point at which the president's allies accuse the local sheriff of having some kind of anti-Trump political agenda, so let's emphasize that Duval County Sheriff Mike Williams is a self-identified Republican.

In the same Politico interview, he said security planning would have been difficult to pull off even if local officials had started planning in June.

“At virtually 75 days it was an incredible lift, and everything would have to be perfect. And needless to say it has not,” Williams added. “So you know with that, we can't pull it off in any kind of current configuration. But again, it's not my job to plan the [convention]. It’s my job to be able to provide security for it, but I can't do it right now in this time frame with this current configuration of the event.”

It's worth reflecting on how we arrived at this point. It was in late May when Trump sought a "guarantee" from North Carolina that it would give the president what he wants for his party's national nominating convention: 50,000 Republicans, standing side by side, cheering him in an indoor venue, without regard for the painfully obvious health risks. Soon after, Trump also told North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) that attendees must not be required to wear masks or socially distance.

Not surprisingly, these negotiations did not go well, which led Republicans to move much of their event to Jacksonville -- the north Florida city that appeared likely to make Trump happy.

Except, that's not working out at all. Many GOP lawmakers are reluctant to show up, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently suggested the convention itself may not be feasible.

As recently as last week, Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) said, “Everybody just assumes no one is going" -- and LaHood is a state co-chairman for the Trump campaign.

Convention organizers and party officials haven't yet settled on a venue for the convention, and by some accounts, fundraising for the gathering is proving to be a trouble area, too.

All of this is unfolding in a state, county, and city where coronavirus cases remain a serious problem.

The Republican convention is scheduled to begin on Aug. 24. Watch this space.