AUSTIN, Texas (KETK) – The Texas Republican Party has filed a lawsuit over the City of Houston’s cancellation of the party’s state convention.
The party is suing Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the City of Houston, and Houston First Corporation for breach of contract and has applied for a writ of mandamus requiring the city to honor its contract.
Houston canceled the state GOP convention Wednesday, citing “public health concern for our first responders, convention workers, and those who would have attended weighed heavily in our decision making” in a tweet by Turner announcing the decision.
The convention was scheduled to be held next week in Houston and was expected to draw at least 6,000 attendees. The three-day event was to have started July 16, with committee meetings earlier in the week.
“The Republican Party of Texas is seeking an injunction requiring the George R. Brown Convention Center to comply with the binding contract and is requesting a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the city from restricting the convention’s events or using the virus as a pretext to cancel the convention,” party officials said in a press release.
“Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s use of the Force Majeure clause is just a pretext to his intent to treat the Republican Party of Texas differently than other groups, such as those we have seen from recent protests in the city of Houston. It should go without saying that a political viewpoint cannot be the basis for unequal treatment. Mayor Turner publicly stated his intention to interrupt the convention process and disenfranchise Republicans around the state, and yesterday he put his scheme into action.
“Mayor Turner was explicit in his objective to dig through our contract and try to find a way – any way – to shut us down. Mayor Turner changed Health Department guidelines to impose additional requirements on the Republican Party that he did not impose on other organizations.
“Mayor Turner canceled the convention because he wanted to, not due to any “act of God” – only due to his desire to do so and to hold the Republican Party of Texas to a different standard than other entities. Further, Mayor Turner’s mandate far exceeded the requirements in the Governor’s Executive Order.
“Our objective is that the courts will hear and rule in our favor in time to open up the George R. Brown Convention Center Monday morning so that we may safely begin our vital work in the electoral process.”Republican Party of Texas
Houston is one of the Texas cities experiencing a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, with the Texas Department of State Health Services reporting 39,311 cases in Harris County. The county has suffered 407 deaths to the virus.
Hospitals in the region have reported 2,700 lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients. Those hospitals are reporting only 1,868 hospital beds and 96 ICU beds available, causing area health officials to worry that the rising case numbers may soon overtake hospital capacity.
Last week, the Texas Medical Association withdrew as a convention sponsor and urged organizers to cancel.
Despite worsening COVID-19 numbers in the state, the Texas GOP had plunged ahead with plans for an in-person convention.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said on Twitter that while he believes holding an in-person convention is “not a good idea” and “risks the exposure of those who do attend” to the virus, he supports the party organizers.
“I will be there,” he tweeted.