March 17, 2020

Texas Republicans Poised to Move Convention to July
as State Officials Weigh Runoff Vote Exclusively in Mail

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

As the state pondered a shift to the use of mail ballots exclusively in the primary runoff election, the Texas GOP announced on Monday night that it plans to push its biennial state convention back from the mid-spring to the middle of the summer amid fears on the coronavirus spread.

Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey said the shuffling of the massive event to a later date at the same location would be contingent on a stamp of approval by the State Republican Executive Committee in early April. Dickey indicated in a conference call that the convention would be held over a five-day period beginning July 13 if the backup plan is ratified by the governing board. The event would be held as planned in Houston at the George Brown Convention where it had been set to get under way on May 14.

There appears to be no Plan C at this point however if the state party organization hasn't received a green light from the state or federal government or both by the time July rolls around after the expiration of an eight-week ban on mass gatherings that the Centers for Disease Control has proposed. The CDC has recommended a voluntary prohibition on events that more than 50 people would be expected to attend. But such a proposal could be obsolete in the next day or two given the speed and magnitude of the stunning domino effect that's culminated in the effective shuttering of civilization as we know it beyond the bare essentials for a span of time that couldn't be any more uncertain than it is now.

The Texas Democratic Party will be expected to follow suit with an eventual suspension of plans to stage its own state confab in San Antonio during the first weekend in June. But the Democrats have some wiggle room in terms of the amount of time they have to deliberate the details involved in a decision on the costly administrative nightmare that rescheduling a huge event that took more than a year to plan.

Dickey said that hotels near the convention hall in Houston have ensured that an ample supply of rooms would be available if the state GOP wants to delay the staging of the convention that the state party is required by law to stage in even-numbered years when primary and general elections are conducted. The activists who are delegates face the task of assembling and approving a new state platform at the convention that will also feature the election of a Texas party chairman for the next two years if it's held at all in 2020.

Dickey faces a challenge that appears to be serious with Allen West as an obstacle in a bid for re-election as the state party boss.

The rescheduling of the major party conventions will guarantee costly administrative nightmares on both sides of the aisle in light of the intense amount of planning that goes into events that have been on the calendar for more than a year.

But Texas officials appeared determined earlier Monday to keep the overtime election on track for May 26 amid the possibility of having all of the runoff votes cast through the mail without the need for public polling locations where COVID-19 would be more likely to be transmitted.

The state Democratic convention is currently set for a three-day run starting June 4 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in a swath of downtown in the Alamo City that's squeezed between the HemisFair Park and the Rivercenter Mall. But that will very likely change to a date farther down the road at the rate things have been going with a response that apparently got under way several weeks too late due in large part to President Donald Trump's attempts to minimize the crisis based on hunches and information that was incorrect.


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