Illi­noisans say masks ‘right thing’ for speech

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION/WORLD - BY RACHEL HIN­TON, POLITICAL REPORTER rhin­ton@sun­times.com | @rrhin­ton Con­tribut­ing: Lynn Sweet

No one knows for sure whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will wear a mask when he walks on to the South Lawn of the White House on Thurs­day to de­liver his speech ac­cept­ing the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent.

But at least one of the in­vited Illi­nois del­e­gates says he would.

“I’ll be wear­ing a mask,” said Richard Porter, a Repub­li­can na­tional com­mit­tee­man from Illi­nois.

That’s if Porter at­tends.

On Wed­nes­day, he was still weigh­ing whether to fly to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., or stay in Chicago for a small watch party he or­ga­nized in River North.

And just as un­cer­tain is whether any of the other 1,000 Repub­li­cans ex­pected to gather in Wash­ing­ton to hear the pres­i­dent speak will be wear­ing masks.

But no mat­ter what hap­pens at the fi­nale of the GOP con­ven­tion, Repub­li­cans ex­pect the ques­tion of go­ing bare-faced vs. mask­ing up to re­main a cam­paign is­sue both na­tion­ally and lo­cally.

“I’ve seen this be­fore, and this is about win­ning the White House, this is about win­ning seats,” said House Repub­li­can Leader Jim Durkin, who was not in­vited to Wash­ing­ton. “I hope sci­ence at the end of the day is able to pre­vail and that we will be able to func­tion as a so­ci­ety where we can at least start get­ting back to our cher­ished nor­mal way of life, but there’s no way around it that this is go­ing to be a ma­jor is­sue in the cam­paigns.”

Few who at­tended first lady Me­la­nia Trump’s speech in the Rose Gar­den on Tues­day could be seen wear­ing the face cov­er­ings that have be­come com­mon­place.

Porter was among the 300 or so del­e­gates who were in Char­lotte, North Carolina, on Mon­day to nom­i­nate Trump and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence for a sec­ond term. Like all del­e­gates, he took an in-home COVID-19 test be­fore head­ing to Char­lotte and was tested again when he ar­rived.

Porter wore a fob-like track­ing de­vice handed out to del­e­gates to trace con­tacts if some­one got sick.

If he does de­cide to stay home to at­tend the small, in-per­son con­ven­tion watch party with about 40 GOP ac­tivists, Porter said the gath­er­ing will com­ply with all Chicago rules on masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

And if he goes to Wash­ing­ton in­stead, the com­mit­tee­man said he imag­ines “that most peo­ple, if not every­body, will be wear­ing masks.” But if not, he’s not go­ing to sweat it. “I think the risk of in­fec­tion gen­er­ally is low,” Porter said.

Durkin said “masks are the right thing to do,” and he hopes that sci­ence “is able to pre­vail” over pol­i­tics.

“Ev­ery­thing is politi­cized — ev­ery small thing, ev­ery large thing — and, un­for­tu­nately, that is the na­ture of the DNC and the RNC and, sadly, the pan­demic has been politi­cized,” Durkin, who said he wears a mask when­ever he’s out in pub­lic, said Wed­nes­day.

Aaron Del Mar, a Trump del­e­gate and Pala­tine Town­ship Repub­li­can com­mit­tee­man, said he no­ticed that some at the con­ven­tion weren’t wear­ing masks but that he and his fam­ily have been do­ing so.

“I would hope that ev­ery­one there would be tak­ing strong so­cial pre­cau­tions and dis­tanc­ing,” Del Mar said.

Cook County Repub­li­can Chair­man Sean Mor­ri­son said he has no prob­lem with the face cov­er­ings, al­though he doesn’t want the use of masks “man­dated by law.”

“There’s too many other things in life and too many other things that are go­ing on with peo­ple — peo­ple that are un­em­ployed or not work­ing and busi­nesses that are be­ing shut down and things of that na­ture,” Mor­ri­son said.

For months, Trump re­sisted wear­ing a mask. He’s ac­knowl­edged that masks would be ap­pro­pri­ate in in­door set­tings where peo­ple are close to­gether, though he’s also retweeted peo­ple who mock Demo­cratic chal­lenger Joe Bi­den for wear­ing a mask.

As for whether Trump chooses to wear a mask, Durkin said “that’s a de­ci­sion for him.”

CHRIS CARLSON/POOL/GETTY IM­AGES

A del­e­gate wear­ing a Trump 2020 face mask at the GOP con­ven­tion in Char­lotte, N.C., on Mon­day.

Illi­nois House GOP Leader Jim Durkin

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