Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Wednesday the city has canceled the in-person Texas GOP state convention scheduled to be held at the city-owned George R. Brown Convention Center.
The official notification to the party came in the form of a letter from Houston First, which runs the convention center. The contract between the two parties included what is known as a force majeure clause that allows for cancelation due to an epidemic.
Houston First relied on a letter from Dr. David Persse, Houston’s health authority, in exercising the cancelation clause.
“I write to confirm that Houston is confronting an unparalleled and frightening escalation in the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” wrote Persse. “Our metropolitan area in general — and Houston in particular — are now among the national epicenters of current COVID-19 outbreaks.”
Texas GOP Party Chair James Dickey said the party is exploring its legal options.
“After allowing tens of thousands of protestors to peaceably assemble in the same city, in the same area, without any of the safety precautions and measures we have taken, he is seeking to deny a political party’s critical electoral function that should be equally protected under the constitution,” Dickey said in a statement.
Dickey argues the party had already implemented many of Turner’s demands and had put in place numerous precautions, including:
- thermal scanning of each attendee when they enter the convention center,
- limited entryways,
- revised floor plans for the caucuses and general sessions to accommodate social distancing,
- established deep cleanings after every meeting,
- provided contactless registration,
- established one-way traffic in our exhibit hall,
- elevated curtain height to create further separation at exhibit booths,
- provided contactless hand sanitizer, and
- obtained masks for attendees use.
The Texas Medical Association, the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston’s leading chamber of commerce, and others had asked the party to switch to a virtual convention.
Turner did have the authority to personally cancel the event, but he removed that authority when revising an executive order.