The Texas GOP is suing the city of Houston after the mayor cancelled an in-person convention that was scheduled for next week.
With election season in full swing, the COVID-19 pandemic is making it clear that campaign events are going to be much different than we’re used to. For example, many towns and cities are nervous about holding big campaign rallies and events and some, including the Biden campaign, have opted for the virtual route. The Republican party, however, is still trying to find a way to connect with supporters with in-person events, but not everyone is on board. For instance, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner recently decided to cancel a Republican in-person convention that was due to take place next week. As a result, the Republican Party of Texas is suing Turner and others who were involved in the decision.
A few days ago, party officials received a letter from Houston First Corp., the operator of the George R. Brown Convention Center, notifying them of the cancellation. At the same time, Turner directed the “city’s legal department to work with Houston First to review the contract for the event.” Not long after, the party filed a lawsuit in Harris County, arguing that the “gathering is protected under both the Texas and U.S. Constitutions and should be allowed to continue as planned.” The complaint, which names Houston First and the city of Houston as defendants, states:
“Mayor Turner may not treat the [Republican Party of Texas] convention differently from that of the recent public protests that the Mayor supported. Political viewpoint cannot be the basis for unequal treatment.”
On Thursday, the party said a Harris County judge “denied their request for an order that would have allowed them to proceed with the in-person event at Houston’s convention center.” In response, party officials said it plans to file an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and added that the State Republican Executive Committee “would meet Saturday to finalize location matters based upon the outcome of the case.”
The cancellation is a blow to the Republican party as it attempts to generate excitement among Trump supporters. If allowed to be held, the biennial convention is expected to attract an estimated 6,000 people to the city. It’s worth noting, however, that the city is also currently a hot spot for COVID-19. Despite that, organizers for the event said Republican leaders planned to “deliver their speeches via video,” enabling organizers to “get everybody in and out of here as quickly and as safely as possible.”
When asked about the lawsuit yesterday, Turner said the Republican Party of Texas “signed the contract in March with a force majeure clause that included epidemics in Houston.” According to that clause, either party can legally “cancel the agreement if an occurrence is beyond the reasonable control of the party whose performance is affected.” Turner added, “It’s ironic that they’re going to the courthouse…to ask them to agree to allow 6,000 people to meet in person when even the judicial community is hearing cases virtually.”
As part of the suit, the Republican Party of Texas is seeking damages “regarding the anticipatory breach of the contract, including financial losses related to deposits, increased costs of handling the Convention elsewhere, and expectancy damages for funds that would have ordinarily been raised at the event.”