- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

DALLAS — Within hours of Rep. Tom DeLay’s announcement yesterday that he would not seek re-election to Congress, several Republicans began jockeying for position to represent the party and Houston’s 22 District.

Two potential candidates seem to lead at this point: Harris County Judge Robert Echols and Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace. Both are well-known in the district, and both have expressed strong interest in running.

Most political analysts think that whoever gets the nod from the party has an excellent chance to win in November in the Republican-leaning district.

Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, said Mr. Echols would have to be considered the favorite because of his lengthy public career and resulting name recognition.

“You’d have to handicap it in his favor,” he said.

Mr. Echols, along with Houston Mayor Bill White, received plaudits for co-managing what was considered a very successful Houston program to assist evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last fall.

Although choosing a candidate for the ballot may be a tough decision for Republicans, Gov. Rick Perry has an even more pressing problem — whether to call a special election to fill Mr. DeLay’s unexpired term. Mr. DeLay said yesterday that he would make his resignation effective sometime before mid-June.

Along with Mr. Wallace and Mr. Echols, Sugar Land lawyer Tom Campbell, who ran a distant second to Mr. DeLay in the March primary, has expressed an interest in running.

Others mentioned by political analysts as possible candidates include State Sen. Kyle Janek and state Rep. Martha Wong, both of Houston.

Chris Bell, Democratic nominee for governor who lost his congressional seat during Mr. DeLay’s 2003 redistricting efforts, called the resignation “a victory.”

“Tom DeLay’s resignation is a great victory in the fight to clean up corruption in politics, but the war is far from over,” said Mr. Bell, adding, “The culture of corruption is about a heck of a lot more than Tom DeLay.”

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who brought charges of money laundering and conspiracy against Mr. DeLay last year, had little to say about the congressman’s announcement.

Mr. Earle refused to answer telephone calls, but released a terse statement yesterday, “Mr. DeLay’s political status has nothing to do with the criminal charges against him, and this changes nothing.”

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