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Texas Republicans suffer 'huge loss'

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/politics/stories/MYSA010806.21A.delay_sider.303a4f9.html Texas Republicans suffer huge loss Web Posted: 01/08/2006 12:00 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2006
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      Texas Republicans suffer 'huge loss'

      Web Posted: 01/08/2006 12:00 AM CST

      Gary Martin
      Express-News Washington Bureau

      WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom DeLay's decision Saturday to
      abandon his bid to remain House majority leader struck
      a blow to President Bush and Texas Republicans who
      have flourished under the besieged leader's wings.

      DeLay, who faces money-laundering charges in Texas,
      announced his decision to avoid an intra-party fight
      for his former seat as majority leader.

      The decision is a setback to Texas Republicans, who
      united behind DeLay and his leadership, which helped
      many to ascend the party ladder and attain positions
      of power within the House of Representatives.

      "From the standpoint of Texas, to have the House
      majority leader resign is certainly a huge loss to the
      Texas delegation," said Earl Black, a political
      scientist at Rice University in Houston.

      Texans, including President Bush, have fared well
      because of DeLay's power.

      The fall is historic, but certainly not unique.
      Democrats prospered under Speaker Jim Wright, D-Fort
      Worth, who was forced to step down in 1989 under an
      ethics cloud.

      And like Democratic lawmakers decades ago, GOP members
      from the Lone Star State moved up in the party
      hierarchy under DeLay's guiding hand.

      San Antonio alone has seen Rep. Lamar Smith rise
      within the party and poised to take the chairmanship
      of the House Judiciary Committee.

      And Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, jumped above
      more senior members to become a subcommittee chairman
      on the House Appropriations Committee.

      Both have held fundraisers to help DeLay fight the
      charges brought in Texas by Travis County District
      Attorney Ron Earle.

      But ethics scandals in Washington surrounding lobbyist
      Jack Abramoff, who has strong ties to DeLay, created a
      climate of concern for Republicans trying to hold
      their majority in the House and Senate.

      DeLay's departure hurts the state delegation, but the
      fallout is more reaching.

      "I don't think it is as much of a hit for Texas as it
      is for the Republican Party," David Crockett, a
      Trinity University political scientist in San Antonio,
      said of the DeLay decision.

      Republican lawmakers circulated a petition this
      weekend calling for leadership elections after
      Abramoff pleaded guilty to felony charges in
      Washington and Florida, and announced he would
      cooperate with federal probes into allegations of
      corruption in Congress.

      "Cleaning up the pervasive culture of corruption in
      Washington requires more than shuffling the Republican
      leadership," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. "It
      requires cleaning the House."

      Republicans sought to cast the DeLay announcement as a
      positive development.

      "Today's decision, although difficult, continues Tom
      DeLay's commitment to put his nation, his
      constituents, his colleagues and his party first,"
      said Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee

      For Texans, the decision by DeLay to forego a
      leadership battle leaves the state without a strong
      man in the House to arm-twist legislation favorable to
      Lone Star interests.

      That same characteristic served Bush well when DeLay
      won critical votes on the Central American Free Trade
      Agreement and other contentious issues.

      DeLay is running for re-election in his Houston-suburb
      congressional district, while fighting charges in
      Austin that he schemed to move corporate money
      illegally from Washington to state legislative
      candidates, in violation of Texas election law.

      He is adamant about his innocence, and faces trial
      this spring.

      Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the GOP whip, has handled the
      majority leader duties since DeLay was indicted in

      Nonetheless, DeLay's drag on Republican lawmakers
      facing re-election, in the atmosphere of the Abramoff
      scandal, is forcing Republicans to push the former
      majority leader aside, experts said.

      "It's just another example of hardball politics,"
      Black said.

      Republicans have an eye on November, said Crockett,
      and the swirl of ethical taint around DeLay is
      unacceptable to GOP lawmakers facing re-election

      "Members of Congress want to get elected, and they
      will only go so far," Crockett said.

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