DeLay on the Ballot

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that former Congressman Tom DeLay's name will be on the November ballot. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports the case is expected to go before the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Former Congressman Tom DeLay won the primary election, but then resigned as his legal troubles continued to grow. DeLay bought a house in Virginia and the GOP ruled him ineligible for the election. Republicans started the process of selecting a replacement. The Democratic party sued. Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein says the court ruling slows the Republican effort to get a candidate in the race.

"If the Democrats were trying to delay a selection or prevent a selection, they have won this battle. It remains to be seen whether it's a permenant victory or if it's a delaying tactic that weakens whoever the nominee is chances are for raising money and getting name ID."

GOP Party Chairman Jared Woodfill sees the court action as a delaying tactic.

"People in the district, they want to decide who the next congressman should be from the 22nd Congressional district and not some court in Austin, Texas. So I think the strategy is really backfiring on them. All it's really doing is motivating Republicans to work harder and longer for the nominee."

David Jones represents the Democratic side on Houston PBS show Connection: Red, White and Blue. Jones says voters may be tuning this court battle out as politics as usual, which he says is unfortunate.

"They like to say, politicians, that things need to be transparent. Well this was so transparently wrong that even a republican district judge, federal judge, could do nothing but rule against them."

South Texas College of Law Professor Rocky Rhodes says a novel legal argument was used in this case. At issue is what state and federal election laws say about where a candidate lives. Rhodes says the Constitution gives the states the right to hold elections. Republicans argue DeLay is ineligible under state law because he's moved to Virginia. But Rhodes says under federal law, candidates do not have to live in a district to run. Once the candidate is elected, then the person has to live in the district.

"That's where DeLay's testimony in front of Judge Sparks that he wasn't sure where he was going to be on election day or when the actual voting occurred was crucial because the judge said wait a second, the standard is where you are an inhabitant of at the time of the election, not necessarily where you are an inhabitant of right now."

The case is expected to be appealed to the fifth circuit court in New Orleans. In the meantime, the republican party is reviewing the ruling to see if they can continue the process of selecting a replacement for Tom DeLay to run against Democratic candidate Nick Lampson. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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