- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal appeals court panel yesterday refused to let Texas Republicans replace Tom DeLay’s name on the November congressional ballot.

The finding upheld a July ruling by a federal judge that the ballot must list Mr. DeLay, who won a March primary before resigning from Congress on June 9. He now lives in Virginia but is awaiting trial in Texas state court on money laundering and conspiracy charges purporting that illegal corporate cash helped pay for legislative campaigns in 2002.

“This was a victory for fair and ethical elections protecting the integrity of the democratic process. Both parties have nominees for the general election, and it’s time to move forward,” said Cris Feldman, a lawyer for the Texas Democratic Party.

The Republicans’ lawyer said he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“What’s happening here is the Democrat Party is trying to control the Republican nominee,” said Republican Party’s attorney Jim Bopp. “I think that’s fundamentally incompatible with a viable two-party system and a democratic process.”

Republicans want to pick another nominee to face Democrat Nick Lampson in November. Democrats sued to keep Mr. DeLay on the ballot. Keeping him on the ballot presumably gives them an easier race and bolsters their attempts to make the indicted former House majority leader their symbol for claims of Republican corruption.

Yesterday’s ruling said that Republican Party state chairwoman Tina Benkiser acted unconstitutionally when she tried to remove Mr. DeLay as the party nominee because he had moved.

Democrats had noted that Mr. DeLay’s wife, Christine, still lives in the DeLays’ house in Sugar Land, just outside Houston.

While the U.S. Constitution requires a candidate to live in-state, the question is where he is residing on Election Day, not now, said the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“DeLay could be a current resident of Virginia … and nonetheless move back to Texas before November,” the opinion said.

Mr. DeLay has suggested he might actively campaign if he is left on the ballot. His spokeswoman, Dani DeLay Ferro, did not respond to a request for comment.

If Mr. DeLay withdraws from the race — rather than being declared ineligible — by law Republicans could not replace him with another candidate.

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