Republicans Look to Fill DeLay's Seat
Apr 4, 9:58 PM (ET)
By WENDY BENJAMINSON and KELLEY SHANNON
HOUSTON (AP) - Republicans hoping to fill the seat of
former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay stepped forward
Tuesday as the 11-term lawmaker said he would resign,
leaving the Texas district whose boundaries he drew.
Within hours of DeLay's announcement, several
Republicans contacted party officials about getting on
the Nov. 7 ballot. Among the potential candidates:
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, who worked with
Houston's mayor to help the city absorb Hurricane
Katrina refugees, and the county's tax
collector-assessor, Paul Bettencourt.
A committee of select precinct chairmen from the four
counties that comprise DeLay's 22nd Congressional
District will select a nominee to replace him.
The Democratic candidate is former Rep. Nick Lampson,
who lost his seat when DeLay redesigned the districts
Lampson, who overnight went from facing a well-funded
if controversial opponent to a quick race against a
latecomer, said he would continue his campaign as
"I've gotten a lot of name identification by being
associated with this race while Tom DeLay has been in
it," Lampson said. "I have the distinction of having
served a portion of this district and I know I have a
lot of support in the eastern portion of this district
that I represented."
The issue of who will represent the Republican-leaning
district between DeLay's departure and the election is
"I will make that resignation effective sometime
before mid-June, but largely dependent on the
congressional calendar," DeLay said. He also said he
would make his northern Virginia condominium his
primary residence, which would make him ineligible to
run or vote in Texas.
If DeLay had resigned effective this week, Gov. Rick
Perry could have called a special election for the
next uniform election date, May 13. The next uniform
election date is Nov. 7, though Perry could call an
emergency special election before then.
The Republicans' new nominee would have to be selected
well before the November election to have time to
raise money and campaign. Lampson had $1.4 million
cash on hand as of Feb. 15. DeLay had nearly $1.3
million, which he can transfer to his legal defense
fund for his upcoming money-laundering trial.
Eric Thode, the outgoing GOP chairman of Fort Bend
County, the largest area of DeLay's district, said a
special election would be open to candidates of any
party, but the district still favors a Republican.
"My Republican dog would win that election," Thode
said, calling a special election "an innocuous and
extremely expensive waste of time."
In addition to Eckels and Bettencourt, other possible
GOP candidates are attorney Tom Campbell, who won
about a quarter of the GOP primary vote against DeLay
last month; Republican state Reps. Robert Talton and
Charlie Howard; Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace;
Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and
former state District Judge John Devine.
Campbell, who already had a campaign up and running,
called DeLay's resignation "a great day for America."
Republican Party insiders will choose the nominee, and
Campbell's challenge to DeLay was considered unseemly,
undercutting his chances of getting the nod.
In the meantime, DeLay is fighting an indictment in
Texas as part of an investigation into the allegedly
illegal use of funds for state legislative races.
Travis County District Attorney Ronald Earle said
Tuesday that DeLay's plan to resign has no effect on
Shannon reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press
Writers Liz Austin and April Castro in Austin and Pam
Easton in Houston also contributed to this report.