- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Rep. Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who stepped down as House majority leader last year, will abandon his re-election bid and resign his seat in coming months, sources on Capitol Hill say.

Mr. DeLay, who was a driving force leading House Republicans to power more than 10 years ago, gave up his leadership post after being indicted by a Texas grand jury on campaign-finance violations. He has held his suburban Houston seat since 1984.

Mr. DeLay won his primary last month, but still faced a strong challenge in November from Democrat Nick Lampson, a former House member. In an interview Mr. DeLay gave Time magazine yesterday for an article that ran last night on the magazine’s Web site (www.time.com), the Texan said will make his retirement announcement today.

“I’m going to announce … that I’m not running for re-election and that I’m going to leave Congress,” said Mr. DeLay, whose re-election in the heavily Republican 22nd District had been looking like a tough race because of the indictment and his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. “I’m very much at peace with it.”

Congressional sources told The Washington Times that Mr. DeLay’s departure in midterm allows Texas Republican officials to handpick a successor nominee for a special election this summer. That candidate would be heavily favored in the conservative district, both in the special election and in November.

Mr. DeLay told Time that he and his wife, Christine, were ready for a tough political battle, but decided Wednesday that he should step aside, partly to spare his district the expected national spectacle and partly to help the Republicans hold on to their House majority.

“This had become a referendum on me,” he said. “So it’s better for me to step aside and let it be a referendum on ideas, Republican values and what’s important for this district.”

“I’m a realist. I’ve been around awhile. I can evaluate political situations,” Mr. DeLay told Time at his home in Sugar Land. “I feel that I could have won the race. I just felt like I didn’t want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause.”

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, last night praised Mr. DeLay’s tenure in office.

“The country owes Tom a great debt of gratitude for helping lead America in a new direction — a direction outlined in the Contract with America,” he said. “He has served our nation with integrity and honor, and I’m honored to call him my colleague and friend.”

Time reported that Mr. DeLay will resign his seat by the end of May and change his residence to his condominium in Alexandria. Thus no longer a 22nd District resident, he would become ineligible for the state ballot.

The announcement comes after last week’s guilty plea in federal court by Tony Rudy, former deputy chief of staff to Mr. DeLay, relating to the corruption investigation into American Indian casino lobbyist Abramoff.

Rudy, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for accepting payments arranged by Abramoff while serving in Mr. DeLay’s office and as a lobbyist later worked with Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials and defraud clients.

In his interview, Mr. DeLay said he had done nothing illegal and denied having failed to adequately supervise members of his staff.

“Two people violated my trust over 21 years,” he said. “I guarantee you if other offices were under the scrutiny I’ve been under in the last 10 years, with the Democrat Party announcing that they’re going to destroy me, destroy my reputation, and that’s how they’re going to get rid of me, I guarantee you you’re going to find, out of hundreds of people, somebody that’s probably done something wrong.”

Mr. DeLay, a Baptist, said he “spent a lot of time” praying about his decision and that his personal relationship with Jesus drives his day-to-day actions. “My faith is who I am,” he said.

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