Reconsider Tampa for the Republican National Convention

by | Jun 4, 2020

Luring this year’s Republican National Convention to Tampa from Charlotte is, at best, an improbable long shot.

But if leaders in North Carolina insist on harming their own people, the Tampa Bay region – with the help of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – should at least try to give our own economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

Our region needs jobs, jobs, jobs, especially at hotels, restaurants and throughout the rest of our critically important tourism, hospitality, and restaurant industries. These hard-working employees have already been severely impacted by three months of coronavirus lockdowns and now face the traditionally slower summer season.

The key is for everyone here to work together. It can be done because it’s all for the betterment of Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay region.

There’s just no estimate on the value of national exposure.

Bringing the convention here offers the kind of potential storyline that the Tampa Bay region – unlike Charlotte – is willing to put aside political differences in order to create jobs and prosperity for everyone.

Isn’t THAT the kind of image we want to present to the rest of the nation AND the world?

In fact, much praise should go to former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat who welcomed the 2012 GOP convention with open arms. He rolled up his sleeves to work collaboratively with Republicans, even amidst the threat of a hurricane. Tampa after all has the blueprint on file on how to host a political party national convention.

Buckhorn and so many other local leaders understood what the convention meant to Tampa.

Much the same is true now. Bringing the convention here in late summer or early fall could add a quarter of a billion dollars or more to an economy that seriously needs an influx of cash, much like the estimated $212 million that was pumped into local coffers by the 2012 convention in Tampa.

Surely, the GOP – working in earnest with local leaders such as Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, also a Democrat – can come up with a mutually acceptable plan. This would enable thousands of Republican leaders to safely meet in Tampa using the latest recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tampa Bay’s regional economy cannot remain in lockdown forever.

And it’s important to note that the CDC’s recommendations are constantly evolving as the data and scientific estimates change. For instance, the federal agency has updated its original estimate on the power of ultraviolet rays to kill the virus as well as spreading it by touching surfaces.

Who knows what the CDC and the rest of the medical community will be saying three months from now since the summer’s heat usually has been effective in dissipating such viruses in the past – and Florida has plenty of heat and sunshine in August.

Weather allowing, perhaps many of the convention’s activities could take place outdoors during our balmy evenings and clear mornings. There are plenty of beautiful backdrops throughout the area that would create a number of memorable scenes.

And of course, if bad weather threatens, downtown Tampa’s Amalie Arena (site of the 2012 Republican convention) along with the Tampa Convention Center would safely host many of the various GOP committee meetings and the convention’s evening gatherings. Amalie is home to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and can seat more than 21,000, plus the convention floor.

Undoubtedly, such indoor-outdoor planning would add additional costs to sponsoring such a convention week. Of course, as in 2012 using Amalie and the TCC for everything may turn out to be the most practical option on such short notice.

Afterall, hosting conventions isn’t cheap. The local host committee raised $55 million in 2012 to sponsor that GOP convention in Tampa and while more money would likely be needed for a late-August or early September convention here, the return from revenue, noterity and publicity would be worth. If there is any doubt to that, why than are other major cities in Texas, Georgia and Florida vying for the opportunity?

Still, if Charlotte can’t make up its mind, Tampa Bay leaders would have to move very quickly to raise money. It’s unlikely that much, if any, of about $70 million raised by the Charlotte host committee would be available for Tampa. But you never know.

On Thursday, President Trump and Republican Party officials gave North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper a deadline of June 3 to OK the GOP’s safety plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The GOP national convention is currently scheduled for Aug. 24-27 at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, home to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. It can seat 20,000, not including space for the basketball court and delegate floor activities.

Tampa deserves to be on the national stage. A second political party national convention in 8-years and the 2021 Super Bowl in the next 8-months will keep Tampa on both the national and world stage!

Let’s all roll up our sleeves, put on our thinking caps and find a way for all of us to unify behind the good news of bringing the 2020 Republican National Convention to one of the greatest cities in America!

Jim Waurishuk is Chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party. He retired from the United States Air Force with the rank of Colonel. 


  1. Jerry

    Rather short term memories here as the last Repub convention here we lost money and many businesses downtown got screwed, forced to shut, etc.
    And the Covid threat then will be high and the perfect venue to spread it. It’s seems Trump wants to make those in his party sick just so he can play king.
    And sacrifice the old people they have taken notice of and don’t like it or his constant lies to their face they know is wrong support has dropped 10%.
    The more he talks, the deeper he gets as the best man on Biden’s team!! ;^).
    I’ll have a good protesting sign thing set up if it does, that will pizz off Trump big time his lies in big letters. ;^)
    I might even drive to Jacksonville if there.

  2. Mike Kersmarki

    Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. Yet another anti-Trumper who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    It’s still laughable but getting to be a bit of a tired cliche.

    The truth is that the Republican National Convention pumped more than $214 million directly into the Tampa Bay area’s economy, according to a business impact study commissioned by the local host committee and reported on by the Tampa Bay Times on Aug. 20, 2013.

    And as that money was spent and respent locally, the total direct and indirect impact of the convention on the bay area added up to $404 million, the Times reported about the study’s conclusions.

    In today’s dollars, that would mean a total economic impact approaching a HALF BILLION DOLLARS.

    That could really boost the hopes of a lot of people who have lost jobs or experienced some type of economic setback because of the pandemic.

    But the 2012 Republican National Convention did more than just ring cash registers, officials said. With 50,000 visitors in town, media everywhere and Tropical Storm Isaac threatening, it also proved something about the bay area.

    “You knew with certainty that this was a pivotal moment,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a news conference to unveil the study. “How we performed on that international stage was going to determine, probably for decades to come, what the world thought of us.”

    What the convention said, Buckhorn added, was “that if we put our minds to it, there is nothing that can get in our way.”

    And Tampa can be back on the world stage again if President Trump and other Republican leaders pick Tampa to host another convention for this coming August or September.

    Yes, there are many more considerations this time under a much tougher deadline because North Carolina’s governor and Charlotte’s mayor have put politics above people. Sad. So very, very sad.

    In Florida, GOP officials seem to be leaning more toward Jacksonville, though there may be an issue with hotel space there, as well as alternative sites from Las Vegas to Tennessee and Georgia.

    But former Democrat Mayor Buckhorn, at least the more optimistic 2013 version, knows what Tampa is capable of.

    That’s the point that’s being made in this reasonable, fair-minded article by Jim Waurishuk, Chairman of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.

    Democrats like Buckhorn and Republicans like Col. Waurishuk see the wisdom of the ENTIRE community working together.

    Yes, the coronavirus is still out there. But as Col. Waurishuk says in his column, working together we can find a solution to still have a convention while helping the people in and around Tampa.

    Isn’t that something worth working toward, helping people?

    Republicans doing a convention redux with Tampa would be for the betterment of the entire area, providing jobs and boosting a regional economy hit hard by COVID-19.

    THAT’s what Col. Waurishuk is saying here.

    Isn’t that something EVERYONE can get behind?

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