GOP Loses Bid to Drop DeLay From Texas Ballot

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused yesterday to block an appeals court ruling to keep former congressman Tom DeLay as the Republican candidate on the ballot, all but ensuring that the former House majority leader will stand for election in November for his suburban Houston district.

DeLay was under indictment in Texas and facing a possible House ethics investigation when he resigned his seat in June and announced he would move to Alexandria in hopes of removing his name from the ballot.

But Democrats, eager to keep the politically tainted DeLay on the ballot, argued that he won the Republican primary this spring and cannot now decide on a successor without violating state election law and the U.S. Constitution. DeLay maintains a home in his district and cannot show that he would be living outside the district on Election Day, Democrats asserted.

A Republican federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of the Democratic argument last month, and that ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans last week. With the election less than 100 days away, Texas Republicans appealed to the Supreme Court yesterday to stay the appeals court ruling and allow them to pick a new candidate to stand against Democrat Nick Lampson in November. That appeal was routed to Scalia, who denied it just two hours after it was received.

James Bopp Jr., the lawyer who argued the Republican Party's case to allow party officials to substitute another candidate for DeLay, told the Associated Press, "I think all our legal avenues are exhausted in terms of affecting the ruling prior to the election."

Now, DeLay must decide whether to mount a real campaign for the seat he has vacated or back a write-in campaign against Lampson, a well-funded former House member.

"It's now time to move on to the general election and put this matter to the voters," said Chris Feldman, a lawyer representing the Texas Democratic Party. "At this point, it's now up to Tom DeLay to decide whether he's going to cut or run."

Dani DeLay Ferro, the former leader's daughter and spokeswoman, said no decision has been made. In an interview in late June, however, DeLay said he would probably stand for reelection if he lost the court fight to remove his name from the ballot.

That would be an ideal fight for the Democratic Party, which had wanted to challenge the scandal-tarnished DeLay even before his resignation. Now Lampson appears destined to face a former congressman mounting a comeback against his will to represent a district he tried to leave.

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