The ball is back in your court, Mr. Mayor.
The Texas Republican Party is proceeding with an in-person convention next week in downtown Houston, a rejection of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s formal request Monday to move the event online amid a local escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
James Dickey, chairman of the Texas GOP, in a statement Tuesday said the party has been “proactive in implementing safety measures” and had “extensive conversations” with Houston First, the public nonprofit that serves as the city’s convention arm and operates the George R. Brown Convention Center. The convention is set to take place there from July 16 to 18.
“With these precautions currently in place, the Republican Party of Texas intends to proceed with an in-person convention next week in Houston,” Dickey said.
The chairman also responded to the list of conditions Turner, a Democrat, said the GOP would need to follow if it holds the convention. Those guidelines include denying entry to anyone who has tested positive for COVID or come in contact with a COVID patient between July 2 and July 15, requiring attendees to wear masks, and providing touchless hand sanitizing stations throughout the convention center.
“Mayor Turner must not have had the information about the measures being voluntarily implemented,” Dickey said. “The Republican Party, delegates, and guests are looking forward to a safe and productive Convention next week.”
Turner said he was “incredulous” that the GOP is moving ahead with an in-person convention, and reiterated that health department officials would shut down the event if they find people are not following COVID-19 guidelines.
The Greater Houston Partnership has called on the Texas GOP, along with state and local officials, to cancel the in-person Texas Republican Convention in downtown Houston next week.
Citing the health and safety of event-goers, staff and volunteers, the group of Houston business leaders said an indoor event as large as the convention — which is expected to draw thousands of people — would be unsafe.
In a letter sent Tuesday afternoon to Gov. Greg Abbott, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and state GOP Chairman James Dickey, the GHP asked “those with the authority to cancel” the event to do so.
“In normal times we would welcome an event that was expected to draw some 6,000 delegates from across Texas to the George R. Brown Convention Center,” the letter read. “Unfortunately, these are not normal times.”
You can click over to see their letter. Of course, the modern Republican Party of Texas doesn’t really represent business interests any more (see: the bathroom bill, for one), so I would not expect this to have any effect. But at least you know, it’s more than just Mayor Turner versus the state GOP.
The one person who could (maybe) put an end to this is Greg Abbott, but I think we all know that ain’t gonna happen. So for now we have this game of chicken, and we hope there’s no significant collateral damage. And if it does come down to the city health department, well, there’s this:
Some Texas GOP activists are now declaring themselves exempt from mask requirements. You can expect forms like this to be distributed in Houston at the @TexasGOP convention (not by the party but by individual activists at the convention center) #TxLege #coronavirus
— Scott Braddock (@scottbraddock) 11:43 AM – 7 July 2020
Those “face mask legal exemption” cards are complete BS, in case you were wondering. Not that anyone who has printed out one of those cards for themselves will believe that, of course. If there’s a better definition of “shit show” right now, I don’t want to know what it is.