Update: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has since issued a stay against the ruling.
In the latest turn of events in a tumultuous week for the Republican Party of Texas’ state convention, a federal judge has ruled that the party may go forward with an in-person convention.
The ruling comes after Democrat Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner blocked the party from holding the event at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center last week and the party made plans to go forward with a virtual convention.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, a Reagan-appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, ruled against the City of Houston as well as Houston First, the local government corporation that operates the convention center.
After a string of court losses, including at the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, the party’s executive committee voted earlier this week to move to a virtual online convention. That process has, so far, been plagued with technical issues. Originally slated to begin on Thursday morning, problems with the implementation of the voting software (needed to verify the credentials of delegates and properly weight votes) forced the party to delay the start of the convention to Saturday morning.
On Friday morning, however, the party joined a similar but separate case led by longtime Houston conservative activist Dr. Steve Hotze, which had its hearing this afternoon.
During that hearing, Judge Hughes ruled that the city must make the convention center available to the party for an in-person meeting.
“The RPT is on track to hold its convention online with its approved plan from the State Republican Executive Committee. Our online convention provides the greatest opportunity for as many delegates who want to participate in the Convention as possible,” said RPT Chairman James Dickey.
“We learned a hard lesson yesterday and with this win today, if for any reason there is an issue tomorrow, we know that we have a single location where, with the necessary SREC authorizations, we could hold Congressional District Caucuses to elect our National Delegates and Alternates and Presidential Electors for President Donald J. Trump,” he added.
During the convention, delegates have the opportunity to vote on the party platform, priorities, and party leaders. The most time-sensitive issue at hand, however, is the nomination of delegates to the Republican National Convention and presidential electors to the Electoral College. The deadline for both is Monday, July 20.