Democratic Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has taken action to assure the shutdown of the Texas Republican Party’s state convention slated for next week, saying the risk of an in-person meeting is just too great due to the threat of COVID-19.
But GOP leaders are calling the move purely “a political stunt,” calling out the mayor for hypocrisy after he participated in large demonstrations just weeks ago following the death of George Floyd.
What are the details?
Mayor Turner announced during a press conference Wednesday that health officials had expressed their concerns to him over the GOP’s upcoming gathering, so he asked the city attorney to step in. The legal department reached out to Houston First–which owns the venue where thousands were expected to attend the convention scheduled July 16 through July 18–and convinced the corporation to cancel the Republicans’ contract.
“These are some very serious times,” Turner said during the news briefing. “Simply, the public health concerns outweighed anything else.”
The Texas Tribune reported that when Turner was asked why he waited until the week before the convention was supposed to happen to intervene, he replied, “This is a political convention, and the last thing you want to do in the midst of a pandemic is to politicize it or make it seem like you are going out of your way to close the door.”
But that is exactly what some Republicans believe Turner has done.
Paul Simpson, the chair of the Harris County GOP, told The Tribune that Turner’s move was a “hypocritical flip flop on public gatherings” and “a political stunt.”
“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 strong health safeguards,” Simpson said. “The mayor should not abuse power for political ends.”
In the meantime, the Texas GOP is looking at alternative options. The Washington Examiner reported that the party voted last week to “allow a virtual convention as a backup plan should the event be canceled,” and a Montgomery County judge has offered to hold the convention at a venue in his community.