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Court Allows Dem Houston Mayor To Cancel GOP Convention

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The Texas Supreme Court on Monday upheld Houston’s refusal to allow the state Republican convention to hold in-person events in the city because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The court dismissed an appeal of a state district judge’s denial of a temporary restraining order sought by the state Republican Party.

Shortly after the ruling, GOP leaders said they would call a meeting of the party’s executive committee to “finalize our path forward.”

A separate court hearing was ongoing Monday in Harris County, where Houston is located, in which a different judge was hearing the party’s arguments to allow the convention to go forward.

The state GOP convention had been scheduled to begin Thursday at Houston’s downtown convention center and was expected to draw thousands of participants.

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said last week that he had directed city lawyers to terminate the contract because he believed the event could not be held safely.

“We had hoped that the Supreme Court of Texas would recognize that the issue before it involved constitutionally protected rights flowing from our contract with the Convention Center and confirm that a contract cannot be breached for political purposes,” state Republican Party Chairman James Dickey said in a statement Monday.

“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.

Turner denied that the convention was canceled because of political differences and cited the potential risk to service workers and first responders if the virus spread through the convention.

Last month, however, the mayor seemed to have no problem with the possible spread of the coronavirus through mass gatherings. He joined a crowd of 60,000 people protesting the death of George Floyd, KTVT-TV reported.

The state party sued a day after Turner’s convention announcement, alleging the city illegally breached the contract and accusing Turner of shedding “crocodile tears.”

“The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true,” the state Supreme Court wrote in its opinion. “But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center.”

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State District Judge Larry Weiman, a Democrat, last week sided with Turner, citing Houston statistics that show major hospitals exceeding their base intensive-care capacity because of an influx of COVID-19 patients.

Texas has set daily records in recent days for the number of COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases. Top officials in Houston have called for the city to lock back down as area hospitals strain to accommodate an onslaught of patients.

The Texas Medical Association withdrew its sponsorship of the state GOP convention and asked organizers to cancel in-person gatherings.

As the virus has surged throughout the state in June and July, Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s top Republican, has reversed some business reopenings and broadly required the use of face masks.

Dickey had insisted that organizers can hold the event safely. Prior to Turner’s move to cancel the convention, he said the party had planned to institute daily temperature scans, provide masks and install hand sanitizer stations.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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