- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Texas Republicans yesterday abandoned their court fight to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on the November ballot after being turned back at the Supreme Court.

The decision came after Justice Antonin Scalia rejected Texas Republicans’ request to block an appeals court ruling saying Mr. DeLay’s name should remain on the ballot.

“I think all our legal avenues are exhausted in terms of affecting the ruling prior to the election,” said Jim Bopp Jr., the lawyer who argued the Republican Party’s case to allow party officials to substitute another candidate for Mr. DeLay.

Under indictment on money-laundering charges in Texas, Mr. DeLay won a March primary election that made him the Republican nominee for Congress from his home district near Houston. In June, he resigned from Congress and said he would not seek re-election.

Democrats had sued to keep Mr. DeLay on the ballot, seeking to capitalize on the former lawmaker’s legal troubles. Mr. DeLay is awaiting trial in state court on money-laundering and conspiracy charges related to a Republican campaign to capture control of the state legislature in 2002. He also is a key figure the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

In a statement late yesterday, Mr. Bopp warned Democrats, “Be careful what you ask for.”

The attorney said Democrats “insisted [Mr. DeLay] run for Congress, now it’s up to voters to decide if Democrats are going to be happy” on Election Day.

Mr. DeLay could still withdraw from the race, leaving the Republican Party with no candidate on the ballot to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former House member from Beaumont.

Democrats were undaunted by the prospect of facing Mr. DeLay in November and claimed victory.

“Given the choice between facing the voters and facing the courts, DeLay chose the courts and lost handily,” said Bill Burton, spokesman for the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Mr. DeLay had hinted that he would run if forced to stay on the ballot. The district is heavily Republican, but Mr. DeLay must contend with mounting legal bills while trying to raise campaign cash.

Mr. DeLay and Texas Republican Party Chairman Tina Benkiser were not available for comment.

The Republican Party’s effort to replace Mr. DeLay on the ballot was turned back in a series of court decisions that reached a climax yesterday at the Supreme Court. Texas Republicans had sought a delay of an appeals court ruling until Republicans could formally ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

The request was routed to Justice Scalia, who handles appeals from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The New Orleans-based appeals court last week sided with Democrats’ claims that, if Mr. DeLay is eligible to run but drops out of the race, the Republican Party cannot substitute another candidate.

Less than three hours after the delay was requested, Justice Scalia turned down the request without comment.

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