JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Vice President Mike Pence was in Jacksonville Saturday for just a few hours to meet with members of the Republican National Convention Host Committee. According to those there, Pence thanked members for their hard work to this point, with the convention just 44 days away.
Pence was joined by the Second Lady. Both arrived at Naval Station Jacksonville shortly after 3:30 p.m.
The pair then left Naval Station Jacksonville to talk to the members of Jacksonville's RNC host committee at the Epping Forest Yacht Country Club in the San Jose area. The speech started at around 5 p.m. and was a private event not open to the public or press.
Others at the event told First Coast News Mayor Lenny Curry, the co-chair of the host committee, didn't attend the vice president's event in person. Curry said earlier this week at a press conference he's in self-quarantine after an exposure to COVID-19. He said he has tested negative.
Several supporters of both the president and vice president's lined up outside NAS JAX and the country club to catch a glimpse of the motorcade.
"We're perfectly fine with it and we welcome it," one supporter said regarding the RNC coming to Jacksonville during a pandemic. "Bring it on. The virus is done. We're super excited and can't wait to be there," one supporter said.
"We're glad they chose this city," another said.
Dean Black, the chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County, attended the event.
"Tonight it was a message of thank you for your hard work, now let's work harder," Black said about Pence's remarks.
"We're taking an event that usually takes two and a half years to plan, but we're going to do it in two and a half months, but Jacksonville is up to the task," Black said.
The vice president, and Coronavirus task force leader's visit comes the same week downtown Jacksonville business owners and residents filed a lawsuit to block the RNC from coming to the River City, citing health worries regarding COVID-19.
"We are going to put the concerns of public health as paramount and we are within those guidelines we are going to have a successful convention," Black said.
Pence's visit also comes as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Florida. Local GOP leaders, however, said safety precautions will be taken at the event.
"I think we have to be cautious, but in the same token I think there’s a lot of opportunity that we can do to make it safe for everyone, safe for the citizens of Jacksonville and safe for the RNC delegates, which I happen to be an alternate delegate myself," Scott Thomas, president of the Duval Trump Club, said.
Black said the vice president's visit motivates all of the organizers even more to put on a successful convention.
"It infuses everybody with enthusiasm and absolute determination to make sure that we execute the plan that we have been tasked with. We are holding the line and we are going to launch a successful convention here," Black said.
Pence and the Second Lady left Jacksonville at around 7:45 p.m. to return to Washington D.C., delayed 45 minutes by weather.