‘Open for business’: Montgomery County Judge invites Texas GOP to hold in-person convention after Houston cancels

HOUSTON – Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, a Republican, invited the Republican Party of Texas to hold its in-person convention in the county after Houston officials canceled the event slated for next week at George R. Brown Convention Center.

Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, announced that he instructed the Houston First Corporation to “exercise its right contractually in canceling the State’s Republican Convention that was set to take place next week at GRB.” The city’s lawyers exercised provisions in the contract that the Texas GOP signed to rent the downtown space for the three-day convention that was expected to draw crowds of roughly 6,000.

“The public health concerns outweighed anything else,” Turner said Wednesday afternoon.

In response, Keough invited the party to hold its convention in Montgomery County in a video he posted on Facebook.

“It has just come to my attention that the city of Houston has canceled the Republican Party convention. That is amazing to me. And the reason that’s amazing to me is that just four weeks ago, there was no mention of any problems about 60,000 people gathering together to protest,” he said. “(There was) no mention of handwashing, no mention of social distancing and no mention of wearing masks or any of that.”

Keough went on to say that the 6,500 to 7,000 people going to the GOP convention had agreed to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, to keep things safe and “to meet in a building that can hold 50,000 people.”

“I believe that being able to protest is a First Amendment right and I support that right. But you know what else I support? I support the fact that political speech is also a First Amendment right and what is equally important is that the Republican Party is responsible to state statute, to have their convention by a certain time in order to meet the requirements for the November election.”

Keough said Montgomery County was “open for business” and they would be “great hosts.” He said they would put no political pressure on the GOP and his only ask was that the people who attended the convention follow the same health guidelines that they’d agreed to follow at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

With Houston cancelling the Republican Party Convention I have offered Montgomery County as an alternative host for the upcoming convention.

Posted by Mark Keough County Judge on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Turner addressed Wednesday what he believed to be the difference between the protests that drew 60,000 people in Houston in early June and the Republican party convention that was expected to draw a crowd that was about 10% of that size.

“It is one thing to be talking about an indoor convention where people are in close proximity with each other for a substantial amount of time rather than walking outside in a protest,” he wrote on Twitter. “When people are marching and protesting, no one is making lunch/dinner, cleaning up behind them.”

Turner also said the city’s move to cancel the in-person event was not political.

“No one wanted to make this to even appear to be political. This is a political convention and the last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicize it or to make it seem as though you’re going out of your way to close the door,” he said.

Jason Millsaps, the Chief of Staff for Montgomery County Judge Mark J. Keough, says the Texas GOP is aware of the county judge’s offer and has been in contact with hotels and venues in Montgomery County.