AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Republican Party of Texas filed a lawsuit Thursday against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston First Corporation and the City of Houston for breach of contract and applied for a writ of mandamus requiring the city to honor its contract, after the city cancelled the in-person convention due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a news release, the party explained it was seeking an injunction requiring the George R. Brown Convention Center to comply with the binding contract and is requesting a temporary restraining order preventing the city from restricting the convention’s events or using the virus as a pretext to cancel the convention.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Wednesday, the city’s lawyers exercised provisions in the contract that the Texas GOP signed to rent the downtown convention center for a three-day event to have started July 16, with committee meetings earlier in the week.
“The public health concerns outweighed anything else,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
The Republican Party of Texas said in a statement on Thursday:
“Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s use of the Force Majeure clause is just a pretext to his intent to treat the Republican Party of Texas differently than other groups, such as those we have seen from recent protests in the city of Houston. It should go without saying that a political viewpoint cannot be the basis for unequal treatment. Mayor Turner publicly stated his intention to interrupt the convention process and disenfranchise Republicans around the state, and yesterday he put his scheme into action.
“Mayor Turner was explicit in his objective to dig through our contract and try to find a way – any way – to shut us down. Mayor Turner changed Health Department guidelines to impose additional requirements on the Republican Party that he did not impose on other organizations.
“Mayor Turner canceled the convention because he wanted to, not due to any “act of God” – only due to his desire to do so and to hold the Republican Party of Texas to a different standard than other entities. Further, Mayor Turner’s mandate far exceeded the requirements in the Governor’s Executive Order.
“Our objective is that the courts will hear and rule in our favor in time to open up the George R. Brown Convention Center Monday morning so that we may safely begin our vital work in the electoral process.”
The Texas Democratic Party released the following statement on the lawsuit.
“Republicans should be thanking Mayor Turner, not suing him. Republicans are lucky that Mayor Turner was willing to do the right thing, cancel this convention, and save them from themselves. Holding an in-person convention in the middle of a pandemic is dead wrong. Republicans need to suck it up, hold their convention in a safe, socially distant manner, and proactively fight the coronavirus pandemic, instead of following Governor Abbott’s lead and waiting on the sidelines.”
READ THE LAWSUIT HERE:
Later in the day, Harris County District Court Judge Larry Weiman held the hearing and denied the request.
“It didn’t matter in which court this case landed, we expected a denial from the liberal Harris County courts,” said RPT Chairman James Dickey. “We thank them for a speedy denial so we can move forward with the appeal we had prepared.”
RPT said it will proceed in filing its appeal directly to the Texas Supreme Court.