Tom DeLay says courts made mistake in ballot ruling
(8/25/06 - HOUSTON) -- Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said he never thought the courts would prevent the Republican Party from replacing him on the November ballot, a Houston television station reported Thursday.
"I'm very disappointed in our justice system. There doesn't seem to be justice," DeLay told KTRK-TV.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, won the GOP primary in March but resigned from Congress in June and moved to Virginia as he faced increasing scrutiny over ethical troubles, including state money laundering charges and fallout from his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The state Republican Party declared DeLay ineligible, setting up a plan for party insiders to choose a replacement candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former congressman, in the fall.
But Democrats sued to stop the effort and won, with federal appellate courts ruling that DeLay could only withdraw from the race. Any Republicans wishing to replace him would have to mount write-in campaigns.
The GOP party is backing Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs as a write-in candidate for the southeast Texas Congressional district.
DeLay said efforts to replace him on the ballot weren't "bungled."
"We read the law and the law is very specific," he said. "You're ineligible if you die, have committed a felony and are convicted of a felony, if you are not mentally capable of serving or if you've moved out of the state."
Democratic Party lawyers argued that it couldn't be shown conclusively whether DeLay would be an "inhabitant" of Texas -- as required by the U.S. Constitution -- on Election Day. They argued he could be living in Texas then and eligible to serve. He still owns -- and his wife, Christine, still lives in -- his Sugar Land house.
In the first court ruling in the case, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin agreed, saying DeLay might come back to Texas. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to block the ruling.
DeLay said he would be disappointed if his former seat went to the Democrats.
"I hope that what the Republicans in the 22nd District will do the very day after the election, if we lose this seat, is to start working to win it in 2008," he said.
But DeLay said he doesn't have second thoughts about his decision to resign from Congress and give GOP leaders a chance to replace him on the ballot.
"Knowing what I know now, I don't think I would have done it any differently because I read Texas law, I knew what Texas law was," he told the television station.
DeLay said he is helping with a book about his career and how the last 22 years of the country's history helped advance the conservative cause. He said he will not become a lobbyist and will never again run for political office.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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