This article has been updated since its original publishing.
The Democrat mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, says next week’s Republican Party of Texas convention is canceled, citing public health fears over the coronavirus.
???? I have asked Houston First to cancel the Texas GOP convention. At 3pm, Houston First sent a letter to the GOP that they are canceling the event. ????
— Houston Mayor's Office (@houmayor) July 8, 2020
The announcement comes after Turner made remarks during a meeting of the Houston City Council, in which he indicated that he had asked the City of Houston and Houston First (the local government corporation that operates the George R. Brown Convention Center, where the event was to be held) to review their contract with the State Republican Executive Committee and determine a way to cancel the convention within the provisions of the contract.
“Where there are provisions that would … allow us to cancel this convention, we will exercise those provisions,” said Turner. “And the plan is to exercise those provisions to cancel this contract today, to not go forward with this convention.”
"The plan is to exercise those provisions to cancel this contract today, to not go forward with the convention,” @SylvesterTurner this morning at council on @TexasGOP convention. pic.twitter.com/6JmH770jNu
— Urban Reform (@urbanreformorg) July 8, 2020
This is the latest development in what has been a buildup of weeks of uncertainty for an in-person convention. While some in the party have been advocating for a virtual convention, the State Republican Executive Committee voted last week to move forward with an in-person convention.
And although the SREC held a meeting to approve a backup plan this past weekend in case the convention was canceled by forces outside of their control, RPT Chairman James Dickey said this Tuesday that the party had no plans to cancel the convention.
Instead, Dickey and Kyle Whatley–—the party’s executive director—indicated that the convention would be more streamlined, with less “pageantry.” Part of that would include no in-person speeches by elected officials, instead having them address the body by video, a decision some have suggested may have been motivated by a desire to avoid potential public booing or protest by a Republican base increasingly frustrated with the actions of the state’s Republican leaders.
“With his words today, Mayor Turner is saying Houston does not want business. He does not want Houston to get back to work. He is not able to move forward and rise to these new challenges,” Dickey said in a statement following Turner’s comments. “Is the City of Houston never going to get back to work? Is the City of Houston never to hold another convention at their cavernous convention center? This is an opportunity to show how to get back to work safely and how to hold conventions safely with cutting-edge technology.”
Additionally, Dickey indicated that the Texas GOP’s legal team was “weighing their legal options.”
“We are prepared to take all necessary steps to proceed in the peaceable exercise of our constitutionally protected rights.”
The convention is currently scheduled for to take place from July 16-18, with committees beginning their meetings on Monday, July 13.