The Orange County Republican Party is planning an in-person gathering for its annual Central Florida U.S. Grant Republican Victory Convention Saturday in Orlando.
The event had been postponed since March because of the coronavirus crisis and was reconfigured as a dinner to maximize social distancing. It is now set for the Rosen Plaza Hotel at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Marc Lotter, director of strategic communicants for President Donald Trump‘s reelection campaign, will headline the gala. In addition, at least 21 local Republican candidates have committed to participate, offering brief addresses on their campaigns for offices ranging from Congress to county commission seats in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.
“We are practicing social distancing and have safety protocols in place,” said Orange County Republican Chairman Charles Hart.
Those protocols include spreading an estimated 114 guests across a room normally set up to accommodate 1,000 people, with five people seated at 10-foot diameter tables.
Masks won’t be required, though they also won’t be discouraged, Hart said. He is one of three Republicans, along with Rep. Anthony Sabatini John Stemberger, and Charles Hart, who are suing Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings over his executive order that everyone wear face masks in public, charging that government does not have the authority to force people to wear masks. That suit was filed in June.
Though the Orange County Republican Executive Committee hosted a barbecue event on July 4, the convention will be the first major political party gathering in months since the coronavirus crisis essentially shut down such activities in late March.
Among candidates expected to attend are those seeking the August 18 primary nomination to run in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, Leo Valentin, Yukong Zhao, and Richard Goble; three of four seeking the primary nomination in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, Jose Castillo, Bill Olson, and Chris Wright; and both candidates seeking the primary nomination in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, Willie Montague and Vennia Francois.
“This is a showcase for our candidates, to be able to get them before the public,” Hart said.
“Besides being a showcase for our candidates, this is the Orange County Republican Party actually employing people, helping people stay employed, helping to support our way of life here in Orlando,” he added. “And we believe we are going to rise again. Orlando will rise again. And we’re leading the way.”