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With Florida part canceled, dozens of Utah GOP delegates left out of convention

SHARE With Florida part canceled, dozens of Utah GOP delegates left out of convention

Phill Wright, vice chairman of the Utah Republican Party, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, talk with the media during the National Republican Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump’s cancellation of the portion of the Republican National Convention planned for Jacksonville, Florida, means dozens of Utah GOP delegates won’t have an in-person role in the nomination process.

Just six of the state’s 77 Republican delegates and alternates, led by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, are headed to Charlottesville, North Carolina, next month for a scaled-back convention limited to less than 400 people overall. There, Trump will be formally nominated on behalf of 2,500 delegates nationwide.

But most of the the rest of the delegates chosen at the state party convention in April were set to join them in Jacksonville, Florida, for the final three days of the convention, where the president was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech in front of a much larger crowd that North Carolina would have permitted under COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

Utah GOP Chairman Derek Brown said he agrees with Trump’s decision.

“It was basically a party for the president, in effect. It was the acceptance speeches, it was the pomp and circumstance,” the Utah party leader said. “I think it makes sense for the president to cancel it in light of everything going on.”

He said the RNC had all along “made it clear if they couldn’t do it in a way that maintained the safety of everyone there, they simply wouldn’t do it. So my guess is that today is the day that they felt like that balancing act wasn’t something that they wanted to risk.”

Some 70 to 80 Utah Republicans were going to Jacksonville, Brown said, even with the many health protocols put in place, including a do-it-yourself virus test kit that had to be sent before arriving. They’re disappointed, he said, but understanding.

Democrats are already holding much of their nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for former Vice President Joe Biden virtually, asking state delegates and party officials to participate from home.

Utah Democrat Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said the cancellation of the Republican festivities in Jacksonville “is probably the responsible thing to do and I am glad the president is finally coming to his senses on COVID-related matters.”

Merchant said while there will be a live component at the Democratic Party’s convention, fewer than 150 people will attend in person. He said the Utah Democratic Party chose “to allow all delegates to participate at home to the extent allowed” by national party rules.