In remarks during Wednesday morning’s City Council meeting, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that he hopes to cancel the state GOP convention scheduled for next Friday at George R. Brown Convention Center, if the City of Houston’s legal team finds that he has the authority to do so.
Turner said that City lawyers have been instructed to review the event contract between the Republican Party of Texas and Houston First, the nonprofit that runs the GRB Convention Center on behalf of the city. If they conclude after their review of the contract that Turner has the authority to cancel the event, he will do so later today.
“The plan is to exercise those provisions to cancel this agreement, this contract, today, to not go forward with this convention,” Turner said.
The mayor shared with City Council a letter from Dr. David Persse of the Houston Health Department in which Persse formally recommended to the City that the event be cancelled if possible, which Turner cited in his decision to now move to cancel the event if possible.
Persse wrote that using the GRB Convention Center to host a large, in-person convention within the next month “is a clear and present danger to the health and wellbeing of convention attendees, workers, local hotel and restaurant owners and Houstonians because of the surging pandemic.”
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The state GOP convention is currently scheduled to take place from July 16-18 next week, and could bring over 6,000 attendees into Houston. On Monday, Turner sent a letter to Republican Party of Texas leadership asking that they voluntarily cancel the event due to COVID-19 safety concerns, and listed a plethora of public health precautions the convention would be required to implement if they chose to go forward with the event. The party refused to cancel the convention, despite Turner’s pleas and the public disavowal of the planned in-person gathering by the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, two groups that had previously agreed to sponsor the convention.
“In addition to nominating the individuals who will represent the party in the electoral college, a state convention of a political party is a fundamental exercise of the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress. That need to assemble is important, and we are taking every precaution to ensure it is done safely,” said Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey in a statement on Monday.
“The Republican Party, delegates, and guests are looking forward to a safe and productive Convention next week,” Dickey’s statement concluded.
In a live-streamed meeting Tuesday night, Republican party officials confirmed that while Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would both address the convention next week, they had decided to do so virtually.