Texas GOP approves virtual convention after court loss

Texas GOP approves virtual convention after court loss
© Martin Holverda via iStock

The Texas GOP on Monday approved holding a virtual convention this year after losing its legal battle at the state Supreme Court earlier in the day.

The state’s Republican Party Executive Committee voted 53-4 to move the state convention online as Texas has become a U.S. hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, The Texas Tribune reported

The vote follows the party’s attempts to get legal approval to host the about 6,000-person event in Houston after the city canceled it. The convention was scheduled to start Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

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The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court denied an appeal from the state GOP in a 7-1 ruling earlier on Monday and also dismissed another appeal from party officials and Houston conservative activist Steve Hotze. 

The state Republican party argued that their in-person convention should be protected under the Texas and U.S. constitutions. But the justices decided that “those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center,” according to the newspaper.

A Harris County District Court judge also decided Monday that the party could not hold the event after the cancellation amid the pandemic.

Houston First Corp., which runs the convention center, informed the party in a letter last week that it was backing out of the event, citing the contract that allowed either party to cancel an event if an occurrence “is beyond the reasonable control of the party whose performance is affected," including “epidemics in the City of Houston,” according to the Tribune.

The Texas Republican Party responded to the letter by saying it would sue the Houston mayor, Houston First Corp. and the city. 

The Texas attorney general’s office was also requested to review the conflict and filed a brief that said the justices of the state Supreme Court should dismiss the GOP petitions.

"Despite their troubling factual allegations, the petitions do not properly invoke this Court's mandamus authority, and they should be denied on that narrow basis," Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins wrote.

Texas has struggled in recent weeks to contain a surge of coronavirus cases in the state. The state has recorded a total of 264,313 positive cases, leading to 3,235 fatalities; most of both are in Harris County, where Houston is located, and Dallas County.