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Texas GOP convention will happen in person — but Republican leaders will speak via video

James Dickey, Texas GOP Chairman is seen on a large video screen during the final afternoon of the 2018 Texas GOP Convention in San Antonio.      Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune
James Dickey, Texas GOP Chairman is seen on a large video screen during the final afternoon of the 2018 Texas GOP Convention in San Antonio. Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune

The Republican Party of Texas is moving forward with its controversial in-person convention during the coronavirus pandemic — but elected officials including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will be giving their scheduled speeches virtually.

“All the elected officials are switching from a live, in-person speech to videos,” Kyle Whatley, the party’s executive director, said during a town hall live streamed Tuesday night. “They’re doing that for us in order to focus all the attention on the business of the meeting and to get everybody in and out of here as quickly and as safely as possible.”

Texas Republican officials typically headline their party’s biennial state convention, which this year is scheduled for July 16 to 18 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center. Roughly 6,000 people are expected to attend.

As the state has seen a surge in coronavirus cases, calls have been growing over the past week for the party to cancel its event. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday asked the State Republican Executive Committee to cancel the gathering and warning that health inspectors would have the authority to shut down the event if certain guidelines are not followed.

Shortly before Whatley made the announcement, Abbott was noncommittal in a TV interview when asked if he'd attend the convention in person.

"Yeah, listen, as for myself, as well as for everybody else, we will continue to see what the standards are that will be issued by the SREC, by the state Republican Party, to determine what the possibility will be for being able to attend," Abbott told KENS in San Antonio.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.