Houston Mayor, Determined to Stop In-Person Texas GOP Convention, Asks City Lawyers to Cancel It

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has taken additional steps to prevent the Republican Party of Texas from holding an in-person state convention next week.

During a city council meeting on Wednesday morning, Turner said he asked city lawyers as well as Houston First—the company that operates the Houston venue where the convention is set to take place—to find a legal means to cancel the GOP Party's physical event.

The mayor's latest announcement came one day after he received a letter from Houston Health Authority David Persse, which called the in-person convention "a clear and present danger to the health and well-being of convention attendees, workers, local hotel and restaurant owners and Houstonians because of the surging pandemic."

Turner referenced Persse's letter during Wednesday's city council meeting.

"It is a letter that, as the mayor of the City of Houston, I simply cannot ignore or overlook. And my number one priority is the health and safety of the people in this city," Turner said. The mayor explained his request to Houston First and city lawyers, which asked them to review the company's contract with the Republican Party of Texas.

"Where there are provisions that would allow this convention...allow us to cancel this convention, we will exercise those provisions," Turner said.

While Texas sees an ongoing spike in new cases and hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus, Houston has diagnosed a substantial number of the state's recent infections. As Turner explained during Wednesday's council meeting, Houston saw its highest single-day increase in cases on Tuesday, with more than 1,000 new diagnoses.

The Texas GOP Party confirmed plans to move ahead with its physical convention in a statement last week. Committee meetings are set to begin next Monday, followed by the general session on Thursday.

On Monday, Turner issued a formal request to the Republican Party of Texas asking them to reconsider holding the convention in-person.

"I am asking them to have a virtual event. It is not a good idea to have an in-person event," Turner wrote on Twitter. He said if the party decided to move forward with plans for an in-person convention, attendees must wear face masks and practice adequate social distancing.

"Health inspectors will be on-site for the entire convention to ensure all guidelines are being followed," the mayor continued, warning that inspectors "have the authority to shut down the convention" if the event's attendees do not adhere to protocols.

The Texas GOP Party ultimately rejected Turner's request in a statement released later on Monday.

"In addition to nominating the individuals who will represent the party in the electoral college, a state convention of a political party is a fundamental exercise of the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress. That need to assemble is important, and we are taking every precaution to ensure it is done safely," said the party's chairman, James Dickey, in Monday's statement. "Mayor Turner must not have had the information about the measures being voluntarily implemented."

Newsweek reached out to Mayor Turner's office and the Republican Party of Texas for further comments but did not receive replies in time for publication.

Mayor Sylvester Turner
Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a funeral event for George Floyd in Houston, Texas, on June 9. Godofredo A. Vásquez/Pool/Getty Images