Texas Supreme Court rejects GOP appeal to host convention in Houston

The Texas Republican Convention was originally scheduled for July 16-18. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
The Texas Republican Convention was originally scheduled for July 16-18. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

The Texas Republican Convention was originally scheduled for July 16-18. (Courtesy Visit Houston)

update: 5:50 p.m.

A state district judge in the mid-afternoon July 13 dismissed a separate appeal from both the Texas Republican Party and a group of Texas Republicans asking for a temporary injunction on the convention's cancelation, one of the last avenues available to the two parties to keep the in-person convention scheduled.

original post: 12:50 p.m.

Further efforts to host the Texas Republican State Convention in Houston were blocked by the Texas Supreme Court July 13.

The action came after the Texas Republican Party and a group of influential state Republicans appealed to the court to reverse an earlier decision to cancel the in-person convention, which was set to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center July 16-18.

Justices ruled that while Houston First Corp, the public-private organization tasked with overseeing the convention center, had an obligation to uphold its contract with the Republican Party of Texas, the party could not dictate how the venue is and is not used.

“The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true,” the opinion read. “But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center. Houston First’s only duty to allow the Party use of the Center for its Convention is under the terms of the parties’ agreement, not a constitution.”

Criticism of the event grew in the weeks leading up to it as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continued to grow rapidly in the region. Health officials, business leaders and union representatives repeatedly said that the potentially 6,000-person event presented a threat to the city, to the delegates planning to attend the convention and to the workers who would be asked to staff it.

In a dissenting opinion, Texas Supreme Court Justice John P. Devine wrote that the contract should have been honored.

“Houston First was coordinating with the Republican Party to implement safety measures for hosting the state convention in the Convention Center,” his opinion read. “Its conduct thus indicated that there were indeed ways to perform the contract without having to resort to outright termination.”

Texas Republican Party Chair James Dickey said in a statement responding to the ruling that he believes that the convention's cancellation unfairly targeted the party for its political affiliation and denied the city an opportunity to boost its economy.

“We believe that Mayor Turner used his control of city-owned property to disenfranchise Republicans and attempt to deny them the opportunity to cast their votes for national delegates and electors in person in Houston,” Dickey said.


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