Washington — The executive committee for the Republican Party of Texas voted Monday to move its state convention from in-person to online, capping a battle set against the backdrop of the worsening coronavirus crisis that ended with a loss for the state party before the Texas Supreme Court.
James Dickey, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said in a statement the party looks "forward to continuing our important work this week in an online convention, including adopting our platform, electing our party officers, electing our national delegates and alternatives and the pinnacle moment of electing the presidential electors who will proudly cast Texas' 38 electoral votes" for President Trump.
The vote Monday by the 64-member board follows a legal fight over the Texas GOP's efforts to proceed with its in-person convention, even as Texas is experiencing a spike in new coronavirus cases. The gathering was set to take place at a convention center in Houston and run from July 13 to July 18, but last week, the Houston First Corporation, which operates the convention center, canceled the event.
In a termination letter to the Texas GOP, the Houston First Corporation invoked a what's known as a force majeure clause in its agreement with the party and cited "the unprecedented scope and severity of the COVID-19 epidemic in Houston."
The Republican Party of Texas then sued Houston First and sought an order that would allow the convention to proceed as planned. But on Monday, the Texas Supreme Court tossed out the dispute between Houston officials and the state party.
"The party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true," the state's high court said in its opinion. "But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the center. Houston First's only duty to allow the party use of the center for its convention is under the terms of the parties' agreement, not the constitution."
The coronavirus pandemic has roiled the 2020 election season and forced the Republican and Democratic parties to shift their plans for conventions. State elections officials have also scrambled to for their primaries and the general election in an effort to mitigate the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
The Democratic National Convention, where former Vice President Joe Biden will accept the party's presidential nomination, was set to kick off Monday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the party postponed the event until mid-August. The convention this year will also be scaled back and have reduced attendance.
The Republican National Convention, meanwhile, has two locations for its convention, where Mr. Trump will accept the GOP's presidential nomination. While the gathering was initially scheduled to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, it will now be split between there and Jacksonville, Florida. Official business will occur in Charlotte, while convention speeches and other events, including Mr. Trump's speech accepting the nomination, will take place in Jacksonville.