Friday, July 07, 2006

DeLay Must Stay On Ballot, Court Rules

Tom DeLay--the reluctant candidate--must remain on the ballot in Texas' 22nd District. Just where the Democrats want him. At least until an appeals court rules on the case.

A federal judge in Texas threw the political retirement of former House majority leader Tom DeLay into doubt yesterday, ruling that the Texas Republican Party must keep the indicted former congressman on the ballot for reelection this November.

For Democrats eager to seize control of the House this fall, the ruling was a significant victory. DeLay is under indictment on campaign finance charges in Texas and is under a cloud of scandal in Washington, and Democrats had hoped to wrest the conservative district from him. But DeLay seemed to thwart those designs in April, when he announced that he would resign from Congress and move his official residence to Alexandria from his suburban Houston district, making him ineligible to run for reelection.

Texas Democrats sued to keep him on the ballot, maintaining that state election laws say victors in a party primary must appear on the general election ballot unless they die or live outside the district on Election Day. They pointed out that DeLay still owns a Houston area home, where his wife, Christine, lives and where he still spends time.

In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks sided with the Democrats...

Republicans are looking at the real possibility that the Democrats' seasoned nominee, former representative Nick Lampson, will be facing DeLay on the ballot. DeLay must decide whether he will campaign for the post he relinquished or almost certainly leave his party with one fewer seat in the House.

Reelection would bring its own problems. The House ethics committee announced in May that, had DeLay not announced his retirement, it would have launched an investigation into what it called "serious allegations" that he had participated in privately funded trips overseas. The Justice Department's sprawling corruption investigation stemming from the activities of former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff has yielded guilty pleas and the promise of cooperation from DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, Tony C. Rudy, and his former press secretary, Michael Scanlon.

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