Chairman says Texas GOP State Convention to continue as in-person event at GRB despite Turner’s plea

HOUSTON – The Texas GOP Convention planned at the George R. Brown Convention Center between July 16-18 will continue as planned, according to the Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey.

Dickey’s statement Monday came after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called for the Texas GOP’s executive committee to cancel the in-person event that is expected to see roughly 6,000 attendees. Turner asked that the event either be made virtual or that certain health protocols be put in place. Turner said if the health protocols were not strictly adhered to, health inspectors who would be present at the event, could shut it down.

“I do not think it is wise or prudent to hold an in-person convention of 6,000 or more at this point in time,” Turner said Monday. “I will call upon the executive committee as well as sponsors to change their minds to go to a virtual convention.”

“We have been proactive in implementing safety measures such as thermal scans upon entry each day for each attendee, limited entryways, expanded floor plans to accommodate social distancing, hand sanitizer stations throughout, and available masks for all attendees,” Dickey wrote in a statement Monday night.

He went on to say that the “need to assemble is important,” as the party will be nominating people to represent the GOP in the electoral college and that the state convention was a “fundamental exercise of the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress.”

“Mayor Turner must not have had the information about the measures being voluntarily implemented,” he wrote.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) wrote a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Monday night asking him to intervene.

“ has now been determined that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through airborne transmission which is of particular concern with 5,000 plus delegates coming to Houston without a guarantee all participants will follow the mask order,” she wrote. “I think it is important as head of the State Republican Party that you cancel the in person convention scheduled for July 16 – 18 in Houston, Texas.”

She too suggested the event carry on virtually to avoid the large gathering.

“As the member of Congress who represents the George R. Brown Convention Center, I appreciate the importance of State Party conventions as an exercise of our democracy, but there is no question that the Houston and Harris County area is in the midst of the worse of this national health crisis dealing with COVID-19 and the surge in Houston and Harris County is constantly rising,” she wrote.

Turner and Jackson Lee, both Democrats, make the request as Houston continues to be a hotspot for coronavirus in Texas. As of Monday, there were 37,887 coronavirus cases in Houston and Harris County with 400 deaths and 12,063 recoveries.

Last Thursday, the 64-member executive committee, which serves as the governing body of the state party, voted 40-20 to move forward with the in-person event.

“Meeting areas will be deep-cleaned thoroughly after each gathering to prepare for the next meeting,” the party wrote in a release at the time. “Hand sanitizer stations will be found throughout the convention center. Sponsors have donated masks which will be readily available for delegates’ and attendees’ use in compliance with Governor Greg Abbott’s most recent order.”

The convention committee meetings are scheduled to begin Monday, July 13 with the general session to open the convention to take place on Thursday, July 16. The convention will then go on for two days, concluding on Saturday, July 18.

Last month, Texas Democrats held a virtual convention and at the time, state party spokesperson Abhi Rahman told the Texas Tribune that the Texas Republicans’ plan for an in-person gathering is “another example of how they’ve downplayed and mismanaged this crisis from day one.”