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Judge's ruling keeps DeLay on ballot

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4028453.html July 6, 2006, 11:54AM Judge s ruling keeps DeLay on ballot By R.G. RATCLIFFE Copyright 2006 Houston
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6 10:42 AM
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      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4028453.html

      July 6, 2006, 11:54AM
      Judge's ruling keeps DeLay on ballot

      By R.G. RATCLIFFE
      Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

      AUSTIN - A federal judge ruled today that Republicans
      cannot replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the
      ballot for the 22nd Congressional District race.

      U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, a Republican
      appointee, ruled that DeLay must appear on the Nov. 7
      ballot as the GOP nominee for the congressional seat
      that he abandoned last month.
      Click to learn more...

      Sparks said DeLay could "withdraw'' from the race
      under Texas election law, but that still would not
      allow the Republicans to replace him on the ballot.

      DeLay had sought to have state Republican Chair Tina
      Benkiser declare him ineligible by moving from Sugar
      Land to his condominium in Virginia. But Sparks said
      that would not make him ineligible because the
      requirement under the Constitution is whether DeLay is
      an inhabitant of Texas on election day.

      Sparks said contradicting evidence raised questions
      about whether DeLay planned to remain a resident of
      Virginia, but he said that did not matter because
      DeLay could not say where he would be on election day.

      "The court holds that allowing Benkiser to declare
      DeLay ineligible at this time would amount to a de
      facto residency requirement in violation of the United
      States Constitution,'' Sparks said in his opinion.

      Sparks' ruling halts the process of replacing DeLay on
      the ballot, but the GOP is expected to appeal the
      decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
      If the Republicans lose on appeal, DeLay will have to
      decide whether to campaign for an office from which he
      already has resigned.

      When he announced his resignation, DeLay said he
      believed he could win re-election but thought he would
      be a drag on other Republican candidates for office
      because Democrats would use him as a lightening rod to
      raise money and attack the GOP in general. So he
      resigned and dropped his re-election bid.

      Precinct chairs in the four counties of the 22nd
      District already have started the process of selecting
      a new nominee.

      Republicans who have been vying for the seat are Sugar
      Land lawyer Tom Campbell; state Reps. Charlie Howard
      or Sugar Land and Robert Talton of Pasadena; state
      Sen. Mike Jackson of Houston; Houston City
      Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs; Fort Bend County
      Commissioner Andy Meyers; Sugar Land Mayor David
      Wallace; retired Air Force Maj. Don Richardson; and
      former state GOP executive committee member Tim
      Turner.

      The Democratic nominee is former U.S. Rep. Nick
      Lampson of Houston. The Libertarian Party is
      represented by Bob Smither of Friendswood.

      DeLay already had won the Republican nomination for
      re-election to his district when he resigned from the
      U.S. House on June 9. Benkiser declared DeLay
      ineligible because he had become a resident of
      Virginia, and she started the process of replacing
      DeLay on the ballot.

      The Texas Democratic Party sued, claiming Benkiser had
      no authority to declare DeLay ineligible.

      The Democrats said DeLay's eligibility is determined
      by the U.S. Constitution as to which state DeLay is an
      inhabitant of on election day, Nov. 7. They said DeLay
      also could not withdraw from the race because state
      law does not allow a party's nominee to withdraw when
      another political party also has a nominee.

      Republicans argued that Benkiser could declare DeLay
      ineligible because the Constitution allows the states
      to control the manner and means of the election. They
      said that by changing his official residence to
      Virginia, DeLay had made himself ineligible for the
      Texas office, even though he still maintained a home
      in Sugar Land.

      DeLay last year had to give up his position as House
      majority leader after being indicted in Austin on
      campaign-finance related charges. DeLay said that
      investigation was politically motivated by Democratic
      District Attorney Ronnie Earle.

      DeLay became a focus of national news reports in the
      wake of the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal.
      DeLay has maintained his innocence, but two of his
      former aides have pleaded guilty to federal charges.



      r.g.ratcliffe@...
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