What to expect when Republicans convene in Cleveland on July 18.
Washington Life: How long have you been on site in Cleveland and what is the best thing about being there to prepare for the convention?
Sara Armstrong: I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of two conventions, but I must say Cleveland will always have a special place in my heart. Having moved here last July, the warmth and the excitement I’ve experienced from this community over the past year has been touching. I’ve really enjoyed the amount of collaboration we’ve had – from local vendors like florists and caterers to the people behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose Arena we’ll be transforming for the convention. We’ve also had great partnerships with the Cleveland Host Committee and Mayor Frank Jackson.
WL: Will the party coalesce around Donald Trump at the convention?
SA: Our party is gathering in Cleveland to officially nominate Donald Trump, which is an important moment for Republicans and one that the entire country will be watching. We are here to celebrate the principles we stand for and to unite as Republicans as we focus on taking back the White House.
WL: What do you believe will be the highlights of the convention?
SA: There are many special moments that occur during the 96 hours of the Convention—but I have to say my favorite is just before the balloons drop on the last night. The camaraderie and anticipation is palpable. After an exhilarating—and exhausting!— four days, we will all be together in this great big arena celebrating what we believe in.
WL: Is anything special planned?
SA: Absolutely. The new Freedom Plaza marks the first time we’ll have an outdoor space right next door to the arena to invite guests to mingle, eat, shop and enjoy live music in a beautiful space between the Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field. From regional food to local performers, I know it will be a great time!
WL: Many prominent Republicans have announced they’ll skip the convention this year and businesses that have traditionally sponsored the gathering have pulled back. How will these actions affect the event?
SA: We are excited to have House and Senate leadership, hundreds of state and local leaders, as well as dignitaries and supporters from across the country at the convention. In contrast to years past, this convention has had more interest and excitement around it than I can remember. Our host committee has done an excellent job raising funds and is well ahead of where we were in 2012.
WL: How concerned are you about possible protests and chaos both on the convention floor and on the streets of Cleveland? Is the city prepared for potential unrest?
SA: We are a First Amendment party and of course believe in the freedom of speech. We are prepared and have worked closely with the city of Cleveland and additional local, state and federal partners who are coordinating and will be continuously refining security plans leading up to July.
This interview first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of Washington Life.