U.S. Congressman Tom DeLay has been followed by legal controversy for more than a year. The former House Majority Leader is at the center of an investigation into illegal lobbying activities and is involved in several lawsuits. He's also been indicted on charges of violating Texas election laws and still faces a possible trial. But it came as a surprise to many people including DeLay's main opponant in the District 22 race. Former Congressman and Democrat Nick Lampson says he wasn't expecting it, but he takes partial credit for Delay's decision.
"It's my mainstream record combined with Tom DeLay's legal and ethical problems that he's faced that meant that he couldn't win in November and I think that that's what made him make the decision that he did. And yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise to me."
DeLay was elected as the Republican candidate for District 22 in March. He announced his decision in an interview with Time Magazine, saying he thought he could win the race, but didn't want to risk losing the seat to the Democratic Party. Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein says Delay's decision is about what's best for the Republican Party.
"The congressman cared much more about the issues and maintaining a Republican representative in this district than his own personal political career, which I think speaks to -- you know -- what Tom DeLay's all about. That is, he's a fighter, but he's also a realistic fighter and I think he saw the election as doubtful or at least problematic."
With DeLay resigning there's a lot of speculation about who will take his spot. He announced his resignation effective in June. But that date could change pending the Congressional calendar. The most likely scenario is that his seat will be filled by special election after he vacates the position. When asked about reaction to DeLay's decision, many Houstonians concerns about the role of partisan politics in Washington. Houston resident Herb Clark says everything done by Tom DeLay is with political calculation in mind.
"I think he saw that he had the possibility of losing in November and I don't think he wanted to take that chance and so I think this is -- 'cause what you do is you get a Republican incumbent in who's not tainted and who is going to have to run against Lampson in the fall and who is going to be an incumbent who is not tainted by indictments."
DeLay temporarily stepped down from his position as House Majority leader last September when he was indicted by a grand jury. He permanently resigned the position in January. After winning the March primary for District 22, he conducted a poll which showed him having a 50-50 chance of winning the election. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.