Republican Party of Texas will not cancel in-person convention despite concerns

Robin Bradshaw

The Texas Medical Association (TMA), sent a letter this week, urging the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) to cancel the state convention as an in-person function in Houston, scheduled for July, 16 -18.

The Texas Medical Association is a professional nonprofit organization representing over 53,000 physicians, residents, medical student and alliance members. It is located in Austin, has 110 component county medical societies around the state, and is one- if not the largest state medical society in the United States.

“We are hopeful the party will follow our recommendation states”, President Diana L. Fite MD. TMA made contributions in amount of 5,000 for both the Texas Democratic Party and the Texas Republican Party for their respective state conventions, in exchange for advertising and began pursuing both sponsorship’s in February, before the pandemic or any stay-home, social distancing measures hit in Texas. For the safety of the delegates, officers, staff, vendors, the convention workers, and the people of Houston, we urged the RPT to reconsider holding its 2020 state convention as an in-person event in Houston this summer, and consider an alternative virtual meeting platform.“

The letter was sent to James Dickey State Chairman, Alma Jackson State Vice-Chairman and Kyle Whatley, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

Below is the official letter to the Republican Party of Texas:

Dear Mr. Dickey, Ms. Jackson, and Mr. Whatley:

On behalf of the more than 53,000 physician and medical student members of the Texas Medical Association, I am writing to recommend that Republican Party of Texas (RPT) reconsider its decision to conduct your state convention as an in-person function in Houston on July 16-18. This is just not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state to an indoor meeting in a county that, as I write, reports more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases.

While much of our state has so far been spared the brunt of the coronavirus attack, our metropolitan areas in general – and Houston in particular – are now among the national epicenters of current COVID-19 outbreaks. The daily chart of active cases in Harris County has been nearly a straight line upward for the past two weeks. As an emergency physician in Houston treating patients with COVID-19, I speak from firsthand experience: It would be best for the health of your conventiongoers and the residents of Houston for the RPT not to hold its biennial convention there as planned.

I personally understand quite well the need for an organization such as the RPT to conduct regular meetings in-person. It goes beyond the business that needs to be conducted and the celebrations that need to occur. The strength of all grassroots organizations, including the Texas Medical Association, lies in the personal relationships of our members, and those relationships need consistent opportunities to grow and develop.

The loss of those opportunities this summer, however, are small sacrifices compared to the health and safety of our organization’s members. Like the RPT, a sizeable fraction of the TMA annual convention consists of longtime activists and leaders – men and women who are now at that age where they are particularly susceptible to the worst that a case of COVID-19 can deliver. That is among the reasons TMA canceled our in-person convention in May.

Update: The state Republican Party Thursday night voted to hold an in-person convention in Houston, despite concerns over COVID-19.

At an emergency meeting late Thursday, the party’s executive committee voted 40-20 to move forward with the convention, set to take place July 16-18.

TMA released this statement in response to the RPT decision on July, 3. “TMA has chosen to withdraw as an advertiser from the convention. Thanks to the party, we have already obtained far, far more than $5,000 worth of exposure for our COVID-19 safety message. Since we are no longer advertising at the event, we urge the party to use our $5,000 to buy masks for people who come to the convention without one.