GOP Convention Boondoggle Propels Mayor
to Superstar Spotlight after Debacle Defusing
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
July 11, 2020
The Texas GOP continued to hold out hopes for a judicial miracle on Saturday night amid visions of the state's highest court ordering its largest city to host an in-person convention on the home turf of a local official who the Republicans have transformed into a national pandemic super hero.
As the GOP prepares to shift their 2020 biennial gathering to Zoom after the Texas Supreme Court puts the final nail in the original convention coffin, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's stock is on a meteoric rise as a potential early favorite for the Democrats in the 2022 race for governor if he decided to seek the state's top job.
The unprecedented embarrassment that the dead convention has become has given the Democrats a massive shot of momentum in their bid to take Texas back this fall. Turner has been the biggest singular beneficiary of the event's Titanic's ending as a result of the graceful way he defused the crisis that the GOP had created in his hometown.
But Texas Republican Chairman James Dickey has vowed to keep flailing with a desperation pitch for the high court to force Houston to allow a convention that the city doesn't want after declaring the event to be a major threat to the public health and safety in the local area and across the state.
The state GOP "is fighting tooth-and-nail against a Democrat shutdown," Dickey declared in a party web site post. "Should the convention center become unavailable, the SREC voted on Sunday night to move forward with a contingency plan taking the convention activities online. Any other planning that may be occurring is not official Convention activities."
The state party appears to have little or no chance of success with the plea for help from the all-Republican Supreme Court without Governor Greg Abbott's intervention on its behalf behind the scenes. But Abbott has appeared to be the second biggest winner from the shuttering of the in-person event where he would have been booed if the party hadn't arranged to let him deliver his speech on a live video instead of facing the legions of conservatives who've turned against as a result of his leadership during the contagion.
The initiation last week of a virtual Plan B was tantamount to an admission that the activists who run the state party expected to have the rug pulled out from under the in-person confab as a consequence of the obvious dangers that it posed.
Dickey promised delegates and others who'd planned for the past four months to spend next week in the Bayou City that he would alert them as soon as possible on the convention in limbo after an emergency State Republican Executive Committee meeting online on Saturday night.
But Dickey also encouraged convention-goers to wait until the last minute to cancel hotel rooms in downtown Houston with an assurance that they could wait until Sunday to do so if they'd booked their lodging through the state party. The state chairman who could be a lameduck at this time next week sought to put a hint of a happy face on the bad news that he shared begrudgingly with the faithful.
"We have removed some of our beloved pageantry – speeches from elected officials, fun interludes, etc. – to keep to the critical business of our convention this year of which the penultimate moment will be electing our electors to cast Texas’ 38 electoral votes for President Donald J. Trump!" Dickey said.
Turner finds himself in the meantime with a treasure chest that's flowing over with the badges of honor that Dickey and other Republicans like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have dished out to him with accusations that he'd tricked the Republicans into thinking they'd be allowed to rally the old-fashion way in the midst of the worst public health crisis in more than 100 years.
But the mayor who had the Houston medical community united behind had given the GOP numerous opportunity to exercise personal responsibility by taking the initiative to shut down the event without forcing Democrats like himself to make the call for the Republicans.
With former Florida congressional member Allen West running for Texas GOP chair at the convention that's going virtual, Dickey's days as the state party boss could be coming to close with the leadership election set for next Saturday.