Houston Mayor Is Exploring Options to Cancel State’s In-Person GOP Convention

HOUSTON, TEXAS - November 1, 2017: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at Houston City Hall. (Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - November 1, 2017: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at Houston City Hall. (Photo by Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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July 8, 2020 4:04 p.m.

As the Republican Party of Texas moves forward with plans for a controversial in-person convention scheduled next week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said Wednesday his administration is investigating ways to cancel it.

“Where there are provisions that would allow us to cancel this convention — we will exercise those provisions,” Turner said in a virtual city council meeting, according to the Texas Tribune. “And the plan is to exercise those provisions to cancel this agreement, this contract, today — to not go forward with this convention.”

Turner said that he had asked the city’s legal department to work with the Houston First Corporation, which operates the convention center in reviewing the contract with the GOP.

The mayor’s comments come after calls he made to the Republican Party of Texas to reconsider holding the event in-person on Monday after he cited health concerns about holding an indoor gathering in Harris County, where the convention center is located and which holds the top spot for the state’s largest outbreak of the coronavirus — clocking more than 1,500 new infections on Tuesday.

The Republican Party pf Texas, however, has put up a fierce and ongoing fight against convention naysayers who have argued that the two-day gathering slotted to welcome close to 6,000 attendees is too risky and could further spread the coronavirus as cases surge throughout the state. 

Just last week, the State Republican Executive Committee overwhelmingly agreed to continue with plans to hold the convention in a board vote. Then on Tuesday, the party’s executive director Kyle Whatley announced that elected officials including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) would make remarks remotely in videos that would be played at the convention in an effort to “get everybody in and out of here as quickly and as safely as possible,” Whatley said at a town hall livestream.

Republican Party of Texas Chair James Dickey responded to Turner’s renewed efforts to stop the event later on Wednesday by ripping the mayor for “seeking to deny” the Republican Party of a “critical electoral function” after the mayor recently allowed protesters to demonstrate there without the safety precautions and measures that the GOP in Texas has taken to ensure convention participants’ safety.

Dickey also said the party’s legal team was assessing the city’s ability to cancel the convention and weighing its own legal options.

“We are prepared to take all necessary steps to proceed in the peaceable exercise of our constitutionally protected rights,” Dickey said in a statement.

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