Indicted DeLay must stay on November ballot: Court
By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Indicted former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay
must stay on the November congressional ballot despite
withdrawing from the race, a federal court ruled on Thursday in
a decision that could help Democrats win this key seat.
Texas Republicans quickly responded they would appeal the
decision by the U.S. court in Austin, Texas, for the right to
choose another Republican to run against Democrat Nick Lampson.
The seat is crucial to Democratic hopes to pick up the 15 seats
needed to regain control of the House of Representatives.
“Ultimately, everyone knows the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals will be the final arbiter of this,” said Harris County
Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill.
DeLay, once one of the most powerful Republicans in the
House, had stepped down as majority leader last year after
being indicted on campaign finance-related charges in Texas.
He dropped his re-election bid this spring after polls
showed his campaign was hurt by those charges as well as an
expanding scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In June, DeLay resigned the congressional seat he first won in
1984 and moved from his suburban Houston congressional district
to Virginia to make himself ineligible for office under state
U.S. Judge Sam Sparks in Austin said DeLay could take his
name off the ballot by formally withdrawing from the race. If
DeLay formally withdraws, the Republican Party cannot replace
him, likely giving the seat to Democrat Lampson.
DeLay’s office predicted on Thursday the decision would be
overturned by a U.S. appeals court.
“Tom DeLay looks forward to the correct decision being
rendered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” spokeswoman
Dani DeLay Ferro said.
DeLay has not been charged in the Abramoff scandal, but two
former aides have pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
VIRGINIA OR TEXAS?
Democrats contended that Texas law did not override the
U.S. Constitution, which only requires a candidate be a
resident on election day of the state where the congressional
district is located.
As proof of his move, DeLay, in a hearing in Austin last
week, produced a driver’s license, a voter registration card
and an income tax withholding form from Virginia and said he
planned to live in that state indefinitely.
Democrats argued DeLay’s wife continues to live in their
Sugar Land, Texas, home.
“There is no evidence that DeLay will still be living in
Virginia tomorrow, let alone on November 7, 2006, the only day
that matters under the qualifications clause of the U.S.
Constitution,” Sparks wrote in his ruling.
The lawyer who argued the Republican Party’s case said
Sparks’ decision would prevent states from assuring the
eligibility of federal candidates prior to an election.
“We think this decision would really throw our elections
into chaos,” said James Bopp Jr. “It would make the Bush-Gore
dispute in Florida look like a picnic.”
Woodfill said Republican Party leaders in the four counties
through which DeLay’s district runs were still preparing to
Lampson is a former congressman whose district, running
from southeast Houston to the east Texas border, was eliminated
in the 2003 congressional redistricting DeLay forced through
the Texas Legislature.