Two new lawsuits aim to reverse GOP convention cancellation

The Texas Republican State Convention was set to be held July 16-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
The Texas Republican State Convention was set to be held July 16-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

The Texas Republican State Convention was set to be held July 16-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

updated: July 10, 10:10 a.m.:

Harris County District Court Judge Larry Weiman denied requests from both lawsuits seeking an injunction allowing theTexas State Republican Convention to continue July 16-18. The state Republican Party plans to appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court, a statement from the party read.

original post: July 9, 7:02 p.m.:

Two new lawsuits filed July 9 aim to reverse a decision to cancel the Texas State Republican Convention.

The first was filed by Republican donor Steve Hotze, Texas GOP Secretary Josh Flynn and other party members, and the second was filed by The Republican Party of Texas. They both center around the use of the “force majeure” clause in the original contract signed by convection organizers and representatives of Houston First Corp., the public-private entity in charge of the George R. Brown Convention Center, where the event was set to take place July 16-18.

Critics of the event, including the city’s lead health authority, Dr. David Persse, have said that hosting the event indoors with an anticipated 6,000 attendees creates a high risk of transmission of the virus among both attendees and workers.

Both parties argue that the clause, which allows for the termination of the contract in the event of an emergency, was relied upon improperly.

“Mayor Turner may not treat the RPT convention differently from that of the recent public protests that the mayor supported,” the suit filed by the RPT stated. “Political viewpoint cannot be the basis for unequal treatment.”

Persse said July 8 that canceling an outdoor protest presented more logistical challenges than canceling an indoor convention. Instead, he said he chose to work with organizers by giving out safety supplies and guidance because protests are protected under the First Amendment and would likely change location if banned from any specific area.

“It’s just not practical,” Persse said in regards to attempting to ban a protest.

Turner instructed the city attorney to review the contract July 8 after days of public debate put the fate of the event into question. Later that day, under guidance from city legal counsel, Houston First Corp. terminated the contract.

In response to the lawsuits, Turner told reporters July 9 that the party should consider hosting its convention in neighboring Montgomery County, referencing recent comments from Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, who said he would welcome the event.

Meanwhile, some area Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, made statements in support of the event's cancellation.

"This is a prudent move for public health," a July 8 tweet from Crenshaw stated. "I’m glad Mayor Turner finally stepped in to make this call, which also means the TX GOP will not be on the hook for half a million dollars for cancelling the event - as they would have been if asked to cancel it themselves."

Harris County reported 700 new coronavirus cases July 9, and based on current trends, the Texas Medical Center projects those surge capacity beds to be fully occupied by July 19, at which point a new wave of temporary ICU beds would be activated.


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