A convention, he said, is different from the recent street protests that have brought thousands of people together in the city. “Nobody is making and serving them dinner. Nobody is making up their beds and cleaning their rooms,” he said of those who attended protests. “When you go marching and protesting, you are assuming that responsibility yourself. But when you are in an indoor event, like a conference, it requires ancillary support, so you are involuntarily including other people in order to facilitate that event.”
Last week, the state party’s executive board voted to go ahead with the event rather than hold it virtually, as the state’s Democratic Party planned to do.
Their decision, in a vote of 40 to 20, came hours after the governor ordered all Texans to wear masks, with few exceptions, when in public. Some older Republicans had expressed fears of being exposed to the virus at the convention but others insisted that forging ahead with the Houston meeting reaffirmed the party’s embrace of courage and individual freedoms.
James Dickey, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said the party was looking into legal action. “We made every effort to conduct our convention in a safe manner,” he said in a statement, accusing Mr. Turner of waiting to cancel the event until days before it started “to inflict the greatest disruption.”
At the same time, many of the elected officials who were scheduled to appear at the event, in the George R. Brown Convention Center, had already said that they would speak by video instead. That included Governor Abbott and the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, a favorite of conservative party members.
“All the elected officials are switching from a live, in-person speech to videos,” Kyle Whatley, the party’s executive director, said during a town hall livestreamed on Tuesday night and reported by The Texas Tribune.
A spokesman for Mr. Abbott did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
State Democrats were happy to cheer Mr. Turner’s move on the convention. “Republicans are lucky that Democratic and city leaders were willing to do the right thing,” the party’s chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, said in a statement.