Excuses vary, from pandemic concerns and tending to their own campaigns to less explicitly stated reasons.
Another round of Republican lawmakers have stated they do not plan to attend their party’s convention next month.
When asked if he has plans to attend the Republican National Convention in August, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts—who is 84 and will retire at the end of the year—told reporters on Thursday: “Well, I have some things to do in Kansas that I got to do and unfortunately I didn’t know what was canceled and what was not and whatever, and so I will probably not be.”
According to the New York Times, Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri also intends to skip next month’s gathering in Florida, though he also did not attend the 2016 convention.
Other politicians who have indicated they will not be present at the convention include: Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania; Mac Thornberry of Texas (who is also the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee); and Darin LaHood of Illinois (also an honorary state co-chairman for the Trump campaign). LaHood was one of eight House members representing Illinois, New York, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan who told the New York Times they would not be attending.
And, even though the event is taking place in their home state, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney of Florida will also not be traveling to Jacksonville for the convention, the Times reports.
On Monday, the state reported 12,624 coronavirus infections after shattering the single-day record of reported cases on Sunday when it hit 15,300.
Originally published July 8, 2020 3:43 PM EDT
Five Republican senators have announced they will not be present to renominate President Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida, next month. Excuses varied, from pandemic concerns and tending to their own campaigns to less explicitly stated reasons.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, 86, said he would not be in attendance, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic as Florida sees a record spike in cases. It will be the first time the senator will miss a convention in 40 years, despite assurances by Vice President Mike Pence last week that the convention would have “very sophisticated plans” to keep attendees safe.
“I’m not going to go. And I’m not going to go because of the virus situation,” Grassley told reporters on a Monday morning conference call.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is the honorary chairman of the Tennessee delegation to the convention, will also be a no-show. A statement released by his office read that Alexander will not attend “because he believes the delegate spots should be reserved for those who have not had that privilege before as he has had.”
Alexander’s office did not respond when asked if the coronavirus was a factor in the 80-year-old’s decision to stay away.
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A spokeswoman for Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski—who criticized Trump’s response to national protests against police brutality and said she wasn’t sure she could support Trump’s re-election bid—simply said the senator “does not plan to attend the convention at this time.”
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the lone Republican vote for Trump’s impeachment in February, said much the same. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee missed the 2016 convention in Cleveland, and spokeswoman Liz Johnson confirmed Tuesday that he won’t be attending this year’s gathering either.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins also will not be traveling to Florida, but an aide said she never attends national conventions during her own election years.
Other GOP lawmakers appear to be hedging as well. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told reporters last month that he supported Trump’s re-election bid but was uncertain about attending the convention due to the virus.
“We’ll see what the situation is then in terms of what COVID-19 is that week,” Portman said during a conference call.
According to the Boston Globe, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker all have no plans to attend.
The Republican convention was originally slated to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but state and city officials balked at hosting such a large gathering mid-pandemic.
“As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wrote in an early June letter to RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and RNC President Marcia Lee Kelly. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.”
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Last month, convention officials moved the bulk of the convention to Jacksonville, where officials began requiring face masks in public a week ago.
The World Health Organization advised governments that before reopening, positive test rates (out of all tests conducted, the percentage that come back positive for COVID-19) should remain at 5% or lower for at least two weeks. Florida’s positive test rate has soared above 18% and there are new calls to scale back the event there.
Trump plans to hold a campaign rally Saturday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Gov. Sununu plans to skip that rally too.