- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Republicans yesterday claimed to be overjoyed that former Rep. Tom DeLay intends to remove his name from the Nov. 7 ballot, opening the way for a write-in candidate to go up against Democrat Nick Lampson in the predominantly conservative 22nd Congressional District in Texas.

“This effectively makes it impossible for Nick Lampson to win the seat,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti. “His only hope was to run against Tom DeLay. Lampson cannot beat any of the available Republican alternatives.”

“It is always a challenge to win with a write-in candidate, but I believe the seat is still winnable,” state Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser told The Washington Times. “We are not going to let Democrat Lampson steal this election.”

She said party leaders were consulting state grass-roots leaders for advice on who would make the best candidate. “We have been making calls all day today and that will continue into the night,” she said.

Other Republicans were more pessimistic about retaining the seat that Mr. DeLay, 59, held for 22 years — and about keeping control of Congress.

“This means there would be no Republican named on the ballot, and I think the prevailing wisdom here is that a write-in candidate would not have much chance of success,” said Bill Crocker, a Republican National Committee member from Texas.

Mr. Crocker said the possible triumph of Mr. Lampson, a former House member, only darkens the party’s prospects for keeping Democrats from netting the 15 seats they need to regain control of the House.

Mr. DeLay, having won the Republican nomination, decided to resign his House seat when polling showed he would have a difficult time getting re-elected, thanks in large part to an indictment in Texas and to the close association of current and former aides to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

“I will take the actions necessary to remove my name from the Texas ballot,” Mr. DeLay said yesterday. “To do anything else would be hypocrisy.”

Friends of Mr. DeLay said he had concluded that raising money for a successful campaign would be difficult at best under the circumstances. Mr. Lampson has a campaign kitty of $2.1 million, while Mr. DeLay is contending with mounting legal expenses.

“I’m betting the push now will be on getting David Wallace [Republican mayor of Sugar Land, the Houston-area city where Mr. DeLay has a home] to run as the write-in candidate,” an aide to a powerful House Republican lawmaker from Texas said privately.

Mr. Wallace, 44, has raised $200,000 for a possible run, and Republicans in the state say he could quickly raise much more, but only if he wins the support of numerous state party officials.

But other Texas conservatives favor Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, and another top-tier contender would be state Sen. Mike Jackson.

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