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Democratic, Republican delegates prepare for once-in-a-lifetime conventions

Posted at 6:51 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 20:37:36-04

CINCINNATI — Local delegates picked to help choose the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential candidates will soon join a pair of national conventions that are anything but conventional. Masks, mid-meeting travel and virtual voting are just the start.

But the two parties’ approaches to holding their conventions during the COVID-19 pandemic are very different.

“Count me on the side of freedom and choice,” said Alex Triantafilou, who chairs the Hamilton County Republican Party and will attend the GOP convention in person as a delegate. “If we want to take that risk, we as Americans should be allowed to do so. And if we as a party make that choice, we should.”

He’ll be among 2,500 delegates at the Republican National Convention, which will start Aug. 24 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Delegates will vote there, then move to Jacksonville, Florida, to celebrate.

North Carolina wouldn’t allow full-capacity gatherings, Triantafilou said. Florida — a state now among the hardest-hit by the midsummer resurgence of COVID-19, with over 100 deaths announced Tuesday — will.

“I’m just going to be very wise about my situation,” Triantafillou said. “I don't intend to go to big gatherings. If there's a speech, certainly, by the president, I’m guessing there will be precaution there as well. So I’m going to take all the precautions that we've all been programmed to take over the last several months."

Bonnie Dunkleman, vice chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, doesn’t think she’ll be able to attend the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most delegates won’t.

“We definitely were told that the thousands of delegates that are chosen are being asked to not go to Milwaukee,” she said. “It’s pretty disappointing to not be able to be there in person. Something that I watched on TV, even as a child, I remember watching the national conventions on TV, and I was very excited. I was like, ‘Wow. I’m going to actually get to be there to see the acceptance speech in person.’”

Instead, delegates like Dunkleman are being asked to vote remotely and record personal stories to be shared during convention broadcasts.

She’s excited to be involved anyway, she said. But she hopes she’ll get another shot in a more normal year.

Both parties' ultimate candidates appear certain ahead of the gatherings: former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet announced his running mate, for the Democrats, and incumbent President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence for the Republicans.