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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urges Texas GOP to cancel its convention

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Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner encouraged the Republican Party of Texas on Monday to cancel its in-person convention in Houston next week and warned that should the event continue, health inspectors would have the authority to shut down the gathering if certain guidelines are not followed.

Turner said that he planned to send a letter to members of the State Republican Executive Committee, the state party’s governing board, outlining conditions the party must follow in order to hold the convention.

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“I do not think it is wise or prudent to hold a convention of 6,000 or more,” the Houston mayor’s office tweeted. “I am asking them to have a virtual event.”

A spokesperson for the state party did not immediately respond to a request for comment. And a copy of Turner’s letter to the SREC was not immediately available.

“Health inspectors will be on-site for the entire convention to ensure all guidelines are being followed,” Turner’s office tweeted. “If they are not, the inspectors have the authority to shut down the convention.”

Last week, the SREC voted 40-20 to proceed with the in-person convention July 16 to 18 at Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center.

Thursday’s vote came on the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott issuing a statewide mask mandate in an attempt to curb the surge of coronavirus cases, which state party Chair James Dickey said meant that masks would be required for most of the convention, though they were not previously. The SREC met again virtually on Sunday and tweaked the party’s rules to allow for what Dickey has described as an “ultimate contingency plan” to host the convention online if circumstances require it.

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Asked Monday about Turner’s request, Abbott continued to decline to take a personal position on the party’s plans other than to urge caution.

“Obviously I think whatever happens —whether it be, listen, this convention or any action that anybody takes — we’re at a time with the outbreak of the coronavirus where public safety needs to be a paramount concern,” Abbott said during an interview with KDFW in Dallas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Turner recently removed language from an executive order and effectively took away his own authority to cancel the convention.

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Turner also called on event sponsors to push the party to move the event online, tweeting that all other conferences had already been rescheduled or canceled for the rest of the year. The Texas Medical Association, the state’s largest medical group, has called on the party to follow suit and withdrew as a convention advertiser.

“With or without masks, an indoor gathering of thousands of people from all around the state in a city with tens of thousands of active COVID-19 cases poses a significant health risk to conventiongoers, convention workers, health care workers, and the residents of Houston,” Dr. Diana Fite, TMA’s president, said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, various other indoor conventions across the state have recently been canceled or moved online. The Texas High School Coaches Association announced Monday it is canceling its in-person, indoor convention scheduled for July 19 to 21 in San Antonio. The THSCA conference was expected to draw 5,000 attendees who would not have been required to wear face masks, according to the association’s rules.

“It was a tough call to make but in our efforts to support the preventative protocols set forth by our Texas school administrators, the UIL [University Interscholastic League] Executive Staff and governing authorities at both state and local levels, we are choosing to prioritize health and safety first,” the THSCA wrote in a press release.

Visit San Antonio, one of the THSCA’s conference partners, commended the group’s decision as a difficult but necessary one.

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“While we feel we had gone above and beyond to ensure a very safe conference, we are in uncharted territory that is requiring difficult decisions for everyone,” Casandra Matej, president and CEO of Visit San Antonio, said in a statement.

Last week, the Texas Girls Coaches Association also canceled its in-person convention scheduled for this Monday through Thursday in Arlington.

Both the THSCA and TGCA are continuing to hold virtual conventions. The THSCA coaching school will take place on the original dates, while the TGCA online clinic will start July 15 and be available through Sept. 1.

Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.

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Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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2020 Election

Trump’s latest attack on Joe Biden is stunningly delusional — even for him

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Few ever accuse President Donald Trump of subtlety. But in a new speech in Cleveland on Thursday, he let loose with a particularly wild rant against his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, that was over-the-top, even for him.

It’s worth just quoting in full:

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Many people pointed out that there’s much more evidence that Biden is a committed Christian than there is for Trump. But almost that seems to miss several key points about how wild this is:

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2020 Election

Facebook removes network of fake accounts that posed as Trump supporters

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Facebook said Thursday it took down accounts running a deceptive campaign out of Romania pretending to be Americans supporting US President Donald Trump ahead of the coming election.

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2020 Election

Brace yourself for months of lawlessness — ‘Election Night’ likely will not end until 2021

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There’s nothing wrong with treating American politics like a sport as long as everyone involved in the competition is playing the same sport by the same rules. There’s nothing wrong as long as both sides agree the rules are legitimate, both commit to obeying them and both accept the consequences when they break them.

This article was originally published at The Editorial Board

But there is a problem with treating American politics like a sport when one side is playing soccer and the other is playing football while neither can agree to the rules, because one side won’t commit to obeying them. There is something wrong when one side not only refuses to accept the consequences of rule-breaking but sets out to undermine the idea of rules altogether. In that case, treating politics like a sport, as the Washington press corps habitually does, isn’t helpful. It’s harmful. Even dangerous.

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