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National Politics

Sheriff: Biden's Tampa visit strains RNC security

News Channel 8
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:56 AM
TAMPA -

A recently announced visit to Tampa by Vice President Joe Biden on Monday, the first day of the Republican National Convention, puts an added strain on law enforcement, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said.

"It does complicate things.  Certainly, it's not the best day for us because we are trying to do a good job for the people that are going to be down in Tampa for this other event so they are all safe," said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.

Biden will attend functions Monday and Tuesday just as 50,000 delegates and media members, along with thousands of protesters, are expected to pour into downtown Tampa. The RNC is slated to run Monday through Thursday at the Forum.

Gee said his office is committed to having a strong presence in Tampa as well as protecting the rest of the county. He said it is unprecedented for a sitting vice president to pop into a city where the opposing political party is holding its national convention.

Adding to the concern is Tropical Storm Isaac, which is forecast to affect the Tampa area on Monday. Evacuations and even cancellation of the RNC has been discussed.

  "We're stretched, no doubt, and we may become more stretched with this storm out there," Gee said.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said his focus has been making the convention as good and as safe as it can be.  Buckhorn claimed he did not know where the vice president was visiting.

"If it is in the city, then I'm sure we're going to have to deploy some resources to it," Buckhorn said. "They are resources I would prefer not to have to deploy, but it is what it is."

With Tampa police and Hillsborough deputies spread thin, plans call for the Orlando police to meet Biden at Tampa International Airport and accompany him to his stop in Tampa.

  According to the sheriff's office, Orlando officers will then escort the Biden motorcade to Orlando, which will result in closing sections of Interstate 4.

  Buckhorn, a Democrat, said he has no plans to meet with Biden in Tampa.

"I'm not going to criticize their decisions.  My job is to focus on what I can control, and my job will be making sure this is a great event and not attending the vice president's event," Buckhorn said.

At the convention, Mitt Romney is expected to be nominated as the GOP's presidential nominee to face off against Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.

  Kirsten Kukowski, press secretary for the RNC, called Biden's visit a disruption, a distraction and a little bit of desperation by the Obama administration.

  "If they were comfortable and they felt good about their direction that their campaign was going, they wouldn't need to send the vice president of the United States on the first day of our convention to try and steal the show," Kukowski said.

Biden joked with reporters in Minneapolis on Wednesday, claiming he was going to be a speaker at the RNC.

Kukowski said there are no plans for Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, to visit Charlotte, N.C., during the Democratic National Convention in September.

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