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Mike Pence cancels Sarasota visit amid spike in Florida COVID-19 cases

The event was planned for July 2.

Vice President Mike Pence indefinitely postponed a rally planned Thursday in Sarasota.

The Republican Party of Sarasota announced Saturday that the stop, part of Pence’s “Faith In America” tour, was off for now.

“Stay tuned for updates on the new time for Vice President’s visit,” an email blasts reads.

The news came the same day Florida reported another 9,585 cases of coronavirus. That included 98 new cases in Sarasota County alone. The county has reported a total of 1,341 cases of COVID-19, and health officials say 96 individuals in the county have died from the disease.

Pence’s stop was a political one, a chance to rally religious conservatives in a battleground state. Sarasota served as home to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for most of the 2016 campaign cycle. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, represents the community in the Florida Senate.

Gruters initially suggested anyone concerned about a gathering could simply skip the trip.

“We only want people who want to come,” Gruters said.

As Trump and Pence have attempted to return to campaign rallies, the campaign has come under fire for holding mass gatherings while COVID-19 infections are on the rise.

Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign specifically called out Pence for the first stop in his “Faith In America” tour in Wisconsin.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo chimed in after the Florida GOP’s announcement.

“Even Mike Pence cannot defend Donald Trump’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge in Florida,” she said. “Trump and his loyalist Ron DeSantis have had their heads in the sand instead of governing during this pandemic — proving just how important it is for Floridians to vote for Joe Biden, an experienced, empathetic leader capable of guiding this nation through crisis.”

Notably, Pence also withered criticism from Florida Democrats the last time he participated in a Sarasota area fundraiser. Two days after he was named to the head the administration response to the coronavirus threat, Pence attended an event at U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s Longboat Key home raising resources for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

At that point, the pandemic in North America was in its infancy. Now, the United States has confirmed 2.48 million cases nationwide. That’s more than a quarter of the 9.86 million confirmed cases worldwide.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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