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Posted by on Aug 8, 2006 in At TMV | 4 comments

GOP Gets Bad News: DeLay Must Stay On Ballot

Question: What’s the difference between former Representative Tom DeLay and an albatross?

Answer: A beak, 180 pounds and an indictment.

Add to that another one now. An albatross doesn’t have to remain on the Texas ballot:

The United States Supreme Court dealt a final blow on Monday to efforts by the Texas Republican Party to replace former Representative Tom DeLay on the Congressional ballot in November, leaving him the reluctant party nominee from his longtime district.

Three state and federal courts had already ruled that Mr. DeLay had to remain the party’s choice despite his assertions that he had moved to Virginia from Texas. In April, he announced he would give up his re-election campaign and resign his seat to allow the party to select another candidate while he battled legal charges.

On Monday, Republican lawyers filed a final appeal to the Supreme Court, but it was rejected hours later without comment by the circuit justice, Antonin Scalia.

“There’s nothing else we’re going to do legally,� said James Bopp Jr., the lawyer who argued the case for the Republicans. “We’ve certainly exhausted our appeals.�

“Bopp” is an ironic name, because that’s what this court rejection does to the Texas GOP politically:

The court’s refusal to intervene handed a major victory to Democrats, who have fought to keep Mr. DeLay in the spotlight as a reminder of the Washington lobbying scandal involving his associate Jack Abramoff. It will make it harder for Republicans to retain Mr. DeLay’s old seat and will allow Democrats to send a wider message that change is needed on Capitol Hill.

Now the prevailing question becomes: since he’s on the ballot anyway, will DeLay campaign for his former seat? The Houston Chronicle:

DeLay was at his Sugar Land home Monday, but refused to come to the phone to discuss his intentions. When a reporter knocked on his door later, no one answered. Dani DeLay Ferro, DeLay’s spokeswoman and daughter, did not provide an immediate response.

State law does not allow a party to replace an official nominee who withdraws from the race if another party also has a nominee for the office. Otherwise, Sparks said, a party could always replace a weaker candidate with a stronger one.

Five judges, both Republican and Democrat, have come to the same conclusion regarding this case, Democratic nominee Nick Lampson said in a statement.

“The people of this district have been without a member of Congress for long enough. It’s time for the voters to decide who will represent them in Congress,” Lampson said. “I look forward to a strong issue-based campaign against Tom DeLay.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats seem to be indulging in political innoculation…bigtime:

Lampson has used the summer to define himself as candidate. He’s also kept up with aggressive fundraising, having raised more than $600,000 between April 1 and June 30, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks how money is spent in politics. He has $2.1 million cash on hand.

“We have to assume Tom DeLay will run an aggressive campaign,” said Mike Malaise, Lampson’s campaign manager. “DeLay has no choice but to base all of his hopes on a smear campaign against Lampson. There’s not a lot of rehabilitation (DeLay) can do for himself.”

There is a supreme irony in what has happened in Texas over this redistricting issue. The Supreme Court essentially upheld the GOP’s right to redraw the district…but the issue involved a big of a political boomerang since some districts are now being jiggled to better represent Hispanic voters. News reports suggest this could HURT some GOP candidates.

And now you have DeLay having to run at a time when he faces a double-whammy from voters of his district who may be mad at him over the redistricting firestorm in Texas, plus his legal problems.

In the end, DeLay may not face a “perpwalk” — but his party doesn’t seem to be facing the kind of “cakewalk” it expected a year ago.