HOUSTON - The City of Houston has canceled the Texas GOP convention that was scheduled for next week at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Wednesday afternoon that he sent a letter to Houston First asking them to cancel the event. Then, in turn, Houston First, which owns the GRB, sent a letter to the Republican Party of Texas letting them know they are canceling the event.
Mayor Turner shared on Twitter that the reason behind the cancelation is the spreading and the prevalence of COVID-19 in Houston.
"The decision to cancel the GOP convention is to protect the health of the people of Houston," he wrote. "The public health concern for our first responders, convention workers, and those who would have attended weighed heavily in our decision making. Houston is in the midst of a global health crisis and we are doing everything in our power to combat COVID-19."
Harris County Republican Party Chairman Paul Simpson called the cancellation a "political stunt" and an "abuse of power."
"Mayor Turner's hypocritical flip flop on public gatherings is a political stunt," Chairman Simpson said in a statement. "While he joined in massive marches in the streets last month, he has now blocked Republican grassroots activists from peaceably assembling even under the most stringent health safeguards. The Mayor should not abuse power for political ends."
No response yet from the Texas GOP following the announcement. But, earlier Wednesday following the City Council meeting, Chairman James Dickey released a statement.
"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," the statement read in part. "Mayor Turner had the authority to shut down the convention, until he actively took steps – as reported by the Houston Chronicle on June 30 – “removing his own authority to cancel it”.
Previously, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas said an in-person convention in Houston would proceed as planned, despite pleas from the City’s mayor and public health authority to hold a virtual event instead.
The event was scheduled to be held from July 13-18.
Last week, the State Republican Executive Committee voted to decide if the in-person event should proceed. They voted 40-20 in favor of moving forward with the event.
Bob Harvey, President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership released the following statement:
"We thank Mayor Sylvester Turner for taking the necessary steps to cancel next week’s in-person state GOP convention. As a number of organizations including ours have voiced in recent days, Houston simply cannot accept the risk that comes with hosting an indoor event for thousands of participants from across Texas at a time when COVID-19 is surging in the community. We believe this move will protect the health and safety of both the delegates and the hotel and convention center employees who were scheduled to work the event, as well as protect the public at large. By making this decision today versus next week, the Republican Party of Texas can now finalize arrangements to host this important event in a virtual format."