DeLay Resignation Leaves Election Questions

Congressman Tom DeLay will not seek re-election in District 22. That raises a lot of questions about what will happen next in that election and where that leaves Houston in the political process. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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Congressman Tom DeLay is known as the Hammer in Washington D.C. for his ability to push legislation through without compromise. He's been a force to reckon with and much of his political clout has brought millions of dollars of funding to the Houston region. Now the question is who will take his seat after he resigns and what kind of influence will that person have. Rice University Political Scientist Dr. Bob Stein says Democratic opponent Nick Lampson has a shot, but no guarantee of winning.

"Lampson's chances are not by any means remote. He's been running, he's been getting name recognition, he'll probably be the only Democrat, there might be five, six, seven, we just don't know how many Republicans. And although a Republican should be able to hold this seat, it may not be just any Republican, but the right Republican, preferably an incumbent who's run in the district before and has name recognition and proven voter attraction."

Several people have already expressed interest in running for the District 22 seat. The Houston Chronicle reports Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, Houston Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs and SugarLand Mayor David Wallace are among the Republicans considering the position. Other possible candidates include State Senator Kyle Janek and attorney Tom Campbell, who ran against Delay in the March primary. Regardless of who throws a hat into the ring, there's a lot of confusion about how a candidate will be selected.

"The timing of this can be up to the governor or it can actually be up to party executive committee -- the Texas Republican Party -- and it could even conceivably involve precinct judges. There's so many layers of dates and timing."

The most likely scenario is that Governor Rick Perry will call a special election to fill the seat after Delay steps down. The next window for a special election is in May. That would allow the Republican Party to select a candidate and get that person elected to the seat. Then they'd already have an incumbent in the seat to run against Lampson in November. The other option is a race to fill the unexpired term and that would be open to anyone who cares to run.

"And of course there, it's not only -- you have to win by 50 percent plus one vote, so we'll have a general and a run-off. It's possible that if a Republican gets elected to that unexpired seat they will be the nominee for the Republican party come November."

DeLay plans to resign some time in late May or early June. He will move to his home in Virginia. Delay must move out of the district to open the spot to other candidates. If he were to remain in District 22, his name would automatically go on the ballot. Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.

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