On Thursday night, the Texas Republican Party’s executive committee voted for a resolution in support of moving forward with current plans to hold an in-person state convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston despite coronavirus concerns.
The virtual State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) meeting was conducted over Zoom and lasted for approximately three hours. The resolution, put forth by SREC committeewoman Jill Glover from Senate District (SD) 12, was finally passed just before 11 p.m. by a vote of 40-20.
Here’s a look at the highlights:
Arguments Against an In-Person Convention
“There’s been discussion earlier tonight…that people would be disenfranchised if we were to hold a virtual meeting. Well, more people are being disenfranchised by us holding an in-person meeting. What percentage of our delegates who are on the list are not going? It is something approaching 50 percent. If anything, by [doing] at least some of our business virtually we will add people, not subtract,” said Mike McCloskey from SD 5.
“We still have two weeks to go yet, and there’s a possibility that between now and two weeks from now, that some authority will not allow us to meet. And if we get there, we get to that week, we will not have enough time to choose our national convention delegates if we have to choose them by July 20,” he continued.
“Everything we do is going to make a political statement. But in the end, our position is to conduct some business,” said Susan Wright, representing SD 10.
“I would like to include as many of our delegates as possible in conducting our business, and if we do this in-person, we lose a lot of them. For one thing, [SD 10] has about half of the delegation that we’re allotted because so many of our people don’t feel like they can go because of health risks and, frankly, protest risks and a number of other things,” she continued.
Arguments For an In-Person Convention
“I want to say first, it breaks my heart that we have good people that have attended for decades and won’t be able to make it,” said Warren Norred, representing SD 10. “This does disenfranchise people. But we can’t pretend as though it’s going to be all roses as our chair has said, you would have logistics galore. Can you imagine thousands of people trying to check in to get their credentials? People who have never used Zoom?”
Norred proposed arranging important votes so more at-risk delegates could come for just one day if they still wished to participate in order to decrease their risk of contracting coronavirus. He suggested those attendees wear “masks the whole time,” and that “we all act like reasonable human beings and don’t say just because it’s my body, my face, my mask I don’t have the right to do it. I don’t have any problem putting a mask on for my friends who want me to wear one. I can do that.”
Robert Kecseg of SD 1 called for political courage, and said, “I would like to see a leadership in our party that stands up for our principles. Instead of worrying about what the press thinks, and what the left thinks, and what the photographs are going to look like, why don’t we just be ourselves and stand for what we believe in and our platform?”
Concerns About Forced Cancellation
The potential of a governmental entity, specifically Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, forcing the cancellation of the event at the last minute was brought up by committeewoman Leslie Thomas of SD 23.
Wade Emmert, general counsel to the Republican Party of Texas, weighed in, and said that he did not believe the mayor would have that authority, though the contract with the convention center does have a “force majeure” provision which could provide an out for either party in the event of an extraordinary circumstance.
“[I] don’t think we are at a situation that would trigger the force majeure. I think [Turner’s] acknowledged that he can’t cancel it, and so short of a governor’s order or other type of executive order I don’t think that can affect our convention going forward in-person,” said Emmert.
Planned Safety and Health Precautions
In a press release after the committee meeting, the party released a list of precautions they’re planning on enforcing to ensure the safety of their attendees:
- Expanded seating to accommodate for social distancing
- Deep-cleaning of meeting rooms between gatherings
- Access to hand sanitizer stations
- Sponsor-donated masks available for attendees to ensure compliance with Governor Abbott’s latest executive order
The SREC is made up of 64 Republican activists and party leaders; one man and one woman from each of Texas’ 31 senate districts along with one chair and one vice-chair. The committee will meet virtually on Sunday to discuss necessary changes to party rules in light of last night’s vote.
The 2020 Texas State Republican Convention is currently scheduled for July 16-18.
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McKenzie Taylor serves as Interim Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.