The Texas GOP convention has become so beset with chaos and dysfunction that delegates voted late Sunday night to hold a second convention to finish business that still hadn't been taken up, though key votes for state party chair and other party leadership positions were still taking place overnight during the original convention that rolled into Monday morning.
But even the timeline for those elections looked uncertain as the clock struck 1 a.m.
The party also experienced a purported cyber attack late Sunday night as it took suggestions for who should sit on a 10-member committee to advise Chairman James Dickey on the time, place and other details of the second convention.
The party received over 5,000 names, and in remarks shortly after 11 p.m., Dickey said he would need time to “de-duplicate” the deluge of suggestions. That is also when Dickey announced the party was experiencing a “denial of service attack” — an intentional cyber attack — “on our systems.”
“Now fortunately we’re using robust technology that is standing up to that attack, but there is no such service that is impervious to such and even when well architected, it can have a serious impact,” Dickey said. “So, we are, uh, we are dealing with all of that."
As a result, delegates voted to adjourn the convention's general session and meet in Senate district caucuses to deliberate over the races for state party leadership. After midnight, early Monday morning Dickey was unseated by ex-Florida congressman Allen West for the chairmanship. Other party races to be decided were vice chair and members of the State Republican Executive Committee.
It was an even rockier end to a weekend full of turbulence for the convention, which was already postponed a day Friday due to technical issues. When the convention reconvened Saturday morning, delegates complained they were still not receiving credentials and thus missing out on debates and votes.
There were reports of dysfunction at congressional district caucus meetings throughout Saturday afternoon. Five hours after a second general session was set to start Saturday afternoon, Dickey announced the convention would adjourn until the next day.
Things did not go much smoother. A livestream rapidly cut back and forth between the general session and Rules Committee meeting, offering only brief snippets of speeches to delegates by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. The Rules Committee meeting itself ran late into the afternoon, holding up the ability of the convention to begin the first general session for the day.
When the general session finally began Sunday evening, delegates did get some things done. Most importantly, they finalized their national convention delegates and presidential electors ahead of a Monday deadline.
Delegates also approved legislative priorities, or their recommendations for what state lawmakers should focus on when they meet again in January. A committee presented 15 possible priorities, and delegates got to pick their top eight.
The victorious eight were led by “election integrity,” “religious freedom” and “child and gender modification” — an anti-transgender priority. But also notable was what did not make the cut. With growing intraparty discontent over Gov. Greg Abbott’s coronavirus response, a priority to limit the governor’s emergency powers came up short.
By late Sunday night, though, it was becoming clear the convention was still woefully short on time. A delegate offered the motion to postpone any remaining business to a second convention, and delegates voted to amend it by a wide margin to exempt the state party leadership races. That meant the original convention would continue into the morning so the leadership races could be decided and the main attraction of the second convention would be debates over the party rules and platform. The amended motion passed 52% to 48%.
The party has been in flux for weeks as calls began mounting to cancel its in-person convention, which was scheduled to happen in Houston, due to a surge in coronavirus infections. Dickey assured the SREC that the party had been working on a contingency plan for months to move the convention online, though members soon after voted overwhelmingly to proceed as planned. City officials then canceled the event, which set off a series of legal efforts by the party to allow the in-person event to continue.
After exhausting those avenues, the SREC earlier last week voted to take the convention virtual. But, as the party struggled to get the online event underway Thursday, it joined a lawsuit spearheaded by Houston activist Steve Hotze pushing for an in-person convention — an eleventh-hour attempt to have another backup plan, if needed.
On Friday, as the convention was still running behind, a federal judge in Houston ruled in the party’s favor, saying that city officials could not interfere with the party hosting an in-person convention both this weekend and next, if it chose to do so. Dickey said the party would proceed with its plans to host the event online since it would provide delegates the best opportunity to participate. By the next morning, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed that Houston federal judge’s ruling.