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DeLay Embroiled in Texas Ballot Battle

EDITOR'S NOTE: While Chris is on vacation various guest posters are filling in. Kate Deming provides the following update on the Tom DeLay ballot controversy:

The legal battle continues in the Texas 22nd U.S. House District over whether the state GOP will be allowed to replace former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's name on the November ballot. The controversy centers on DeLay's attempt to drop out of the race by moving to Virginia and allowing the Texas Republican Party to declare him ineligible for election, remove his name from the ballot, and choose another candidate. Texas Democrats have tried to block that move by filing for an injunction to keep DeLay in the race, claiming that Texas state election law prevents a candidate's name from being removed from the ballot post-primary unless it is incontrovertibly proven the candidate is ineligible -- which they claim DeLay and the GOP have failed to do. Because DeLay only moved to Virginia days before Republican officials declared him ineligible, Democrats argue he has not met the burden of proof required to have his name removed from the ballot.

DeLay originally won the GOP's nomination on March 7, beating back three other candidates. Though he garnered 62 percent of the vote (his nearest opponent had 30 percent), it was the closest primary of DeLay's 22 year career. Polls showed that the Texan's indictment on state money laundering charges and ongoing legal scandals involving former staff members and political associates had severely eroded support among his constituents. According a Houston Chronicle poll, only about half of those who cast ballots for DeLay in 2004 said they would do so again in 2006.

About a month after winning the primary, DeLay announced he was retiring from Congress and dropping out of the race. DeLay explained the move by saying he wanted to give Republicans a chance to hold onto the seat and focus the debate on relevant issues, not on his legal troubles. DeLay claimed he was changing his official residence from Texas to Virginia so the Texas Republican Party could declare him ineligible as a candidate and choose a replacement. The state GOP declared DeLay ineligible on June 7 and state Republican Party leaders set out to find a new opponent for Democratic candidate Nick Lampson. But Democrats have argued that DeLay is not actually ineligible because he did not permanently move to Virginia. They went to court to stop the Republican Party from removing DeLay's name from the ballot. The Democrats are clearly calculating that Lampson will have a better chance of winning by facing off against a scandal-plagued opponent who has said he is not running, than facing another Republican in this GOP-heavy district. Also, having DeLay on the ballot helps motivate the Democratic base, and ups campaign contributions considerably. Without DeLay, fewer outside contributors would be interested in the contest. Time magazine reported that the Texas Dems have said as much in open court. "He's kind of like a lightening rod that we use to drum up support," Ken Bailey, director of party affairs, testified.

Texas election law does not make it easy to resign from a state race once a candidate has been chosen by primary voters. The law provides only three reasons why a candidate, fairly elected in a primary, could withdraw from a race. A) He could die, B) He could suffer "a catastrophic illness...that would permanently and continuously incapacitate the candidate and prevent the candidate from performing the duties of the office sought," (documented by two licensed physicians), or C) He could be appointed to another office. As DeLay was not deceased, not catastrophically ill, and not in contention for another political position, he could not officially "withdraw" from the race. The only way left to legally replace him on the ballot was for Republican Party officials to declare him ineligible. To do so, facts from another public record had to be produced that conclusively established his ineligibility. The Texas GOP claimed DeLay's new residency in Virginia was the fact that allowed them to disqualify him from the race.

Claiming DeLay does still in fact retain residency in Texas, the Democrats were able to gain a 14 day injunction from state Judge Darlene Byrne that prevented the Republican Party from nominating a new candidate. However, Republicans have said the restraining order is a desperate move from Texas Democrats to circumvent a fair election process. After Republicans successfully moved the hearing from state to federal court on the 15th, a new hearing date was set for the 26th of June. During the hearing before federal Judge Sam Sparks, DeLay testified that he lives in Virginia, owns a Virginia driver's license and has taken out hunting and fishing licenses. He also said that he voted by absentee ballot in the most recent Virginia elections. However, under cross examination he admitted he did not know where he would be on the November 7 election day, and he could possibly be in Texas at the time. He also admitted that he still owns property in Fort Bend Country, Texas, where his wife still lives in their home.

Attorneys for both sides have until Friday, June 30, to submit their final legal documents to the judge. A ruling is expected sometime in early July. The Houston Chronicle reported that Judge Sparks expressed some skepticism toward the GOP's argument, saying that if political parties were allowed to replace primary election winners with more popular candidates "the abuse would be incredible", and that "it could happen in every race in this state for every office." Adding another wrinkle to the case, the judge reportedly expressed doubt that the party could use residency as a reason to declare a candidate ineligible. The judge noted that the Constitution only requires a candidate to be a resident of the state at the time of election.

-- Kate Deming,

By Editors  |  June 29, 2006; 3:07 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: The Friday Line: Gingrich, Gore and Another Early Look at 2008


It doesnt matter if he stays on the ballot or not..When he goes to prison ..

Posted by: pal | June 30, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

It doesnt matter if he stays on the ballot or not..When he goes to prison ..

Posted by: pal | June 30, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

There could be a political backlash for anyone who appoints Delay to another post... it could easily be painted as an unethical and harm what ever executive (whether at the federal, state, or local level) appoints Delay. Plus, wouldn't he be ineligable to be appointed to any Texas post b/c he is currently a resident of Virginia?

Posted by: Politics Nerd | June 30, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Tom Delay's residence today is irrelevant. The constitution and case law clearly establish that the date at which Delay's residence matters is not March or June but when elected.

Given that the election has not taken much place, much less Delay being re-elected, his residence as of now is irrelevant. You cannot prejudce a person's residence in November unless he/she is either dead or in jail.

This was just an attempt by the Republicans to bypass the Texas Election Code. And it was completely invalid.

Posted by: federal farmer | June 30, 2006 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Make that: The Far Right makes sure that their loyalists are taken care of quite nicely.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | June 30, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

In defense of DeLay (never thought I'd say that), how many people actually remove themselves from registration rolls when registering in another voting jurisdiction?

I've never heard of anybody actually doing it.

Which is one of the reasons that many localtities automatically drop voters from their rolls if they haven't voted in "x" elections.

And, as a Congressman, DeLay was allowed to reside in two places. Otherwise, Congressman and Senators who actually tend to business in Washington for over 180 days a year (or whatever time their state requires for residency) could lose residency in the locations they represent. DeLay may be covered.

Also, I can picture DeLay staying in the Washington area as a lobbyist or stooge for a Richard Mellon Scaiffe. The Far Right makes sure that their loyalists are taken are of quite nicely.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | June 30, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The only thing weaker than your political analysis is your writing ability, Mr. Fix. There is no such thing as an "odds-on frontrunner." There are no odds on a frontrunner because the race has already begun and the betting window is closed. Go back to your seat. I realize you probably meant to say "odds-on favorite," but you should junk the cliches and be more alert when you deign to write for a major publication.

Posted by: Rapid City Kid | June 30, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The only thing weaker than your political analysis is your writing ability, Mr. Fix. There is no such thing as an "odds-on frontrunner." There are no odds on a frontrunner because the race has already begun and the betting window is closed. Go back to your seat. I realize you probably meant to say "odds-on favorite," but you should junk the cliches and be more alert when you deign to write for a major publication.

Posted by: Rapid City Kid | June 30, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

$10 says he gets appointed to some post, it doesn't have to be in Washington. Could be dogcatcher, or health inspector (chasing cockaroaches- he has prior experience).

Either Rick Perry, or Fort Bend county could find him an appointment.

Posted by: brianm0122 | June 30, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Tom DeLay still lives in Texas.

He is still on the voter rolls of Ft. Bend County. A simple call to the registrar would take him off the rolls, and add to his evidence. But he hasn't done so, and is now registered to vote in both VA and TX.

See his TX voter registration at:

He and his wife are still receiving a "homestead" credit on their Texas home. Isn't a "homestead" where someone lives?

See his homestead credit at:

Tom, your arguments are unconvincing. Better stick to the beaver jokes.

Posted by: John D | June 30, 2006 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Plus DeLay has no particular transportation expertise. But I don't think being a Bush Sr. appointee shields the judge from being tarred as a "liberal activist". Just ask David Souter.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | June 29, 2006 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Mike - I don't think they would appoint DeLay Transportation Sec simply b/c he is under indictment.

Posted by: Ohio guy | June 29, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

delay stays on the ballot... his mess could wind up giving democrats the house... lets hope that ciro and ceullar go up against each other... go ceullar and ciro gets to come back. i'm hoping some more dramatic changes could come out of this with a democrat tilt, i guess time will tel...


Posted by: aaron | June 29, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

A peek into the mind of Karl Rove: Tom DeLay can't be withdrawn from the ballot unless he dies, becomes impaired, or is appointed to another post. Norm Minetta is retiring as Secretary of Transportation, and since DeLay already lives in Virginia, well,...

Would you put it past the White House to pull something like that?

Posted by: Mike Dowling | June 29, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I love bphillips solution to the situation. Cozy accomodations at Huntsville would do just fine for Mr. DeLay.

For the sake of discussion though, let's say that what Mr. DeLay is not guilty of doing anything illegal (we know that he's about as far from "innocent" as a $10 hooker - Sounds Texan don't it!). I wouldn't suprised at all if it's found to be all quite legal.

But, the fact that it is not illegal does not mean that what he is doing is not immoral.

I wonder if his evangelical supporters would understand that? Maybe too many double negatives.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | June 29, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The Federal Judge also said it would be foolish to try to precede with finding a replacement for Delay but today the Harris County Republican Party in defiance of a Federal Judge is having a meeting to find a replacement.

This is why we're labeled as a corrupt party.

On top of that most of CD 22 is in Fort Bend. Why do Harris County Republicans want to influence our district.

Posted by: Disgruntled Texas Republican | June 29, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I think that he needs to hurry up and go to trial..Maybe when he is an inmate in Texas Prison system the ambiguouty can then be decided...Maybe he could be cell mate with George W....

Posted by: bphillips | June 29, 2006 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The judge in this case is a REPUBLICAN - appointed by George H.W. Bush no less. If he hands down the ruling that it sounds like he is going to hand down, Texas repubs won't be able to scream that it was some "liberal activist" judge with an agenda. The bottom line in this case is that the brass of the Texas repub party tried to subvert the will of the primary voters by removing DeLay from the ballot b/c they knew he couldn't win b/c he is so currupt. The constitution says a candidate can only be taken off in case of death, serous illness or appointed to another office.

Posted by: Ohio guy | June 29, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Is it too late for independents to file for this race? If that option is gone for Republicans, I think this seat will be blue for at least one Congress.

Posted by: peter | June 29, 2006 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Any judge who buys the "I'm not a resident of the state of Texas" crap that Delay is trying to spew is to stupid to be allowed to dress themselves in the morning.

Just like you don't put on a condom unless you plan to %&*$, you don't run in a Republican primary in the State of Texas unless you are a resident of the state.

Republicans can talk about Democrats subverting the election process all they want, but they've clearly made a political calculation that Delay can't win and therefore he needs to be taken off of a ballot that the voters of the state of Texas in the Texas primary put him on.

Posted by: J. Crozier | June 29, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

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