Houston Scraps GOP Convention 07/09 06:25
Houston officials on Wednesday canceled the Texas Republican Party's
in-person convention, saying the spread of the coronavirus made it impossible
to hold the event as scheduled.
HOUSTON (AP) -- Houston officials on Wednesday canceled the Texas Republican
Party's in-person convention, saying the spread of the coronavirus made it
impossible to hold the event as scheduled.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city's lawyers exercised provisions in the
contract that the Texas GOP signed to rent the downtown convention center for a
three-day event to have started July 16, with committee meetings earlier in the
week. Turner, a Democrat, previously resisted calls to cancel the convention
and insisted Wednesday that his decision wasn't driven by politics.
"The public health concerns outweighed anything else," Turner said.
State Republican chair James Dickey said the party was weighing its legal
options and accused Turner of trying to deny the GOP's "critical electoral
The fight over whether thousands of Republican supporters will converge on
downtown Houston as the city's hospitals are overwhelmed is a snapshot of the
broader political tensions that have underscored Texas' handling of the
Gov. Greg Abbott, the state's top Republican, had publicly deferred to state
party leaders who last week voted by a 2-to-1 margin to go forward with an
in-person event, though he had not committed to attending the convention.
Abbott has faced pressure from both sides while managing a coronavirus
crisis that has surged in recent weeks. In May, he lifted restrictions on
gatherings and began to reopen business over the objections of Democratic
leaders in several Texas cities. The numbers of confirmed virus cases and
deaths began to spiral in June and reached new daily highs this week.
Last week, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he was through listening to
the nation's top infectious disease expert, saying Dr. Anthony Fauci "doesn't
know what he's talking about" over comments that some states reopened too fast.
But even Patrick, who is chairman of Trump's reelection campaign in Texas,
expressed misgivings about his party pressing forward with the convention.
The Texas Medical Center, a consortium of Houston hospitals, has moved into
surge capacity for its intensive-care beds. Texas reported more than 10,000 new
confirmed cases statewide for the first time on Tuesday. The Texas Medical
Association had already withdrawn as a convention sponsor and urged organizers
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people
have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus
without feeling sick.
Abbott in recent weeks has moved to close bars again, restrict the size of
outdoor gatherings, and institute a broad mandate requiring people to wear
masks in public.
Dickey said in his statement Wednesday that organizers had planned to
institute daily temperature scans, provide masks, and install hand sanitizer
stations. Echoing the criticism among some conservatives to the government's
coronavirus response, Dickey argued attendees at any convention would have more
protection than the tens of thousands of protesters who gathered in downtown
Houston following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white
police officer pressed his knew into Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes.
Turner "does not want Houston to get back to work," Dickey said. "He is not
able to move forward and rise to these new challenges."
Speaking Wednesday afternoon, the mayor said he waited to act because he had
hoped state Republicans would cancel the event on their own.
He added that he thought of his late mother, who worked as a hotel maid, and
whether others in her position would face a heightened risk of infection if the
convention went forward.
"No one wanted to step in and be the heavy and to say no, and then run the
risk of being accused of being political," he said. "But if after all of that,
you still refuse to recognize the public health danger to everyone involved,
then I am still the mayor."
If all other efforts for a face-to-face convention fail, Dickey said a
convention "using online technologies" would be held.
"In the coming days, we will evaluate all legal remedies available to us to
fight back against the unequal treatment Mayor Turner has chosen to inflict on
conservatives. We will keep our delegates, alternates, and other convention
attendees posted as we pursue those remedies," Dickey said.
Meanwhile, hours after Turner's announcement, the chief administrative
official of Montgomery County, in Houston's conservative suburbs, offered to
host the convention instead.
The national Republican Party is also pushing to have an in-person
convention this year, moving the event from Charlotte, North Carolina, to
Jacksonville, Florida, after North Carolina officials would not provide
guarantees sought by President Donald Trump. But in recent days, a growing
number of Republican senators said they would skip the convention.
Texas Democrats held an online convention in June, and national Democrats
plan to hold an almost entirely virtual convention in August.