MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas — Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said he's willing to host the Texas Republican convention after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner canceled the event at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
There has been a lot of back-and-forth surrounding the GOP plans, but one thing is certain, it won't be held at the GRB. The convention was expected to bring more than 6,000 delegates to the city from July 16-18. Turner called off the convention on Wednesday.
Republicans were quick to slam the decision.
"Mayor Turner's hypocritical flip flop on public gatherings is a political stunt," Harris County GOP Chairman Paul Simpson said. "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."
Texas GOP Chairman James Dickey said they're weighing their legal options. But Houston First, which runs the GRB, said its contract included the right to cancel during an epidemic.
"The public health concern for our first responders, convention workers and those who would have attended weighed heavily in our decision making," Turner said during a news conference Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey said the party had implemented several safety measures, including thermal scans, limited entryways, expanded floor plans and hand sanitizer stations.
The tipping point for Turner came Tuesday night when he received a letter from Houston Public Health Authority Dr. David Persse, who called the use of the convention center a “clear and present danger” to convention attendees, workers and employees, reported KHOU 11's Adam Bennett.
Here's Dickey's response on Wednesday:
"Today, just five days before the beginning of the Republican Party of Texas State Convention, Houston First Corporation, at the behest of Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston, terminated our binding contract to host the 2020 State Convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
"This cancellation is not about the health and safety of Houstonians or the delegates and guests to our Convention. We made every effort to conduct our convention in a safe manner, working cooperatively with the Convention Center, going well beyond the requirements of the Center’s health safety plan. If Mayor Turner’s motivations were pure, he could have cancelled the lease weeks ago. Instead, he waited until the eve of the Convention to inflict the greatest disruption.
"Mayor Turner has publicly stated his intention to interrupt the Convention process and disenfranchise Republicans around the state. Mayor Turner changed Health Department guidelines to impose additional requirements on the Republican Party that he did not impose on other organizations.
"Mayor Turner’s disdain for all Republicans is evident by the divisive rhetoric he uses to describe conservatives and our efforts to participate in the electoral process.
"Make no mistake, our State Convention will continue unimpeded. If necessary, we will protect the rights of our delegates and complete the electoral business delegated to us by the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the state of Texas using online technologies.
"In the coming days, we will evaluate all legal remedies available to us to fight back against the unequal treatment Mayor Turner has chosen to inflict on conservatives. We will keep our delegates, alternates, and other convention attendees posted as we pursue those remedies."