AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Supreme Court on Monday rejected two appeals that sought to resurrect the state Republican Party's in-person political convention after it was canceled by Houston officials amid a growing coronavirus outbreak.
GOP officials had hoped the all-Republican Supreme Court would allow the meeting to take place at the end of this week.
Instead, the court's 7-1 ruling said the party could not rely on state law or the Texas Constitution to enforce its contract with Houston or Houston First, which operates the city's convention center.
"The Party argues it has constitutional rights to hold a convention and engage in electoral activities, and that is unquestionably true. But those rights do not allow it to simply commandeer use of the Center," the court said in an unsigned opinion.
"The duty the Party seeks to compel Houston First to perform is imposed by contract, not imposed by law," the court said.
The court also denied without comment an appeal from conservative leaders, including Steven Hotze, that sought to allow an in-person convention.
After party officials rejected pleas to cancel its convention amid a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in the state's largest city, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner stepped in Wednesday to cancel the convention center contract, citing a "force majeure" clause that permits cancellation for situations beyond control, including "epidemics in the City of Houston."
The GOP filed suit the same day, and on Thursday, a state district judge held a brief preliminary hearing on the lawsuit and declined to order Houston to honor its contract with the party, which appealed to the Supreme Court. The district judge set a full hearing on the matter for today.
State GOP Chairman James Dickey said party lawyers have shifted efforts to that hearing, which began at 9:30 a.m., in hopes of a legal victory that will allow for an in-person convention.
"We believe that Mayor Turner used his control of city-owned property to disenfranchise Republicans and attempt to deny them the opportunity to cast their votes for national delegates and electors in-person in Houston," Dickey said in a statement.