A federal judge has ruled the Republican Party of Texas can hold an in-person convention in Houston. Late Friday, Judge Lynn Hughes overturned the city's order from last week that denied the planned event at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The order from Mayor Sylvester Turner claimed the event was a public health threat in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in cases of the virus in Houston. A Harris County court rejected the RPT's previous request to block the city's order, and the Texas Supreme Court upheld that ruling earlier this week. But Judge Hughes says the city must grant the RPT access to the convention center either this weekend or next. Following the previous rulings, the RPT began an all-virtual convention Thursday, but halted proceedings Friday due to technical issues.
Attorney Jared Woodfill, who brought this latest lawsuit, calls it a victory for the Constitution and the First Amendment. "Republicans across the state will be coming to Houston to meet, to celebrate, to create a platform, to elect electors to the electoral college, to elect delegates to the national convention," he tells KTRH. "The online convention was not working...and there is a First Amendment right to have that in-person communication, that in-person political speech."
RPT Chairman James Dickey released this statement following Friday's ruling:
“After the technical issues we experienced at RPT yesterday, immediate redundancy became a key objective. I was invited to join this lawsuit and took the opportunity to provide a last-resort method in-person if we needed it to secure our national election obligations. The RPT is on track to hold its convention online with its approved plan from the State Republican Executive Committee. Our online convention provides the greatest opportunity for as many delegates who want to participate in the Convention as possible. Delegate rights and delegate empowerment are critical to us and define the Republican grassroots. We learned a hard lesson yesterday and with this win today, if for any reason there is an issue tomorrow, we know that we have a single location where, with the necessary SREC authorizations, we could hold Congressional District Caucuses to elect our National Delegates and Alternates and Presidential Electors for President Donald J. Trump.”
"We applaud Judge Hughes for affirming the position the RPT took in our original lawsuit, making clear that Mayor Turner cannot use pretext to infringe our right to in-person Convention. “I hope this ruling sets a precedent for other state and local Republican parties and organizations who come against a bully Democrat mayor’s malicious shutdown.”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued this statement following Friday's ruling:
"We are in the midst of a pandemic, a public health crisis. More people are being admitted to our hospitals and ICUs, and more people are dying. The State Republican Executive Committee is being totally irresponsible in continuing to push for an indoor, in-person convention. This reflects a total disregard for the health and safety of employees and people in our city. After denying the Republican Party's request for a temporary restraining order, the federal judge late Friday evening apparently has changed his mind. Upon receiving a written order from the federal judge, the City of Houston and Houston First will appeal."