Tom DeLay Throws in the Towel

Former majority leader feared getting hammered by one of his own redistricting victims.

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's unparalleled power in the Texas Congressional delegation made for many tremendous historical events – an infamous, but failed, Democratic walkout in the Texas Lege; a Republican-heavy Congressional map that unseated five veteran Democrats; and a new standard for mid-decade redistricting that has thus far withstood judicial scrutiny and currently awaits Supreme Court judgment. But his overreach eventually led to the end of his career as House Majority Leader, and earlier this week, the end of his congressional tenure altogether.

Only one thing would have stopped DeLay from moving forward with his campaign, and it was not an indictment at the hands of Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Instead, the specter of actually losing his re-election bid in November in a safe Republican district – to, of all people, a Democratic opponent his new map unseated in the last election – was enough to make DeLay throw in the towel this week. In a prepared statement on Tuesday, DeLay said he had no fear of any investigation from Earle into his activities but refused to make his Congressional campaign a referendum on himself.

The reaction from Democrats was swift. Gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell, who was drawn out of his district by DeLay and ended up filing the first ethics complaint against the then majority leader, called for Gov. Rick Perry to add ethics reform to the call on the special session. Nick Lampson, DeLay's Democratic opponent, sent a message to supporters that he intended to press forward to win in November. And Earle sent out a statement that his case against DeLay would continue on toward completion.

Matt Angle, former chief of staff for ousted U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (another redistricting victim), runs the Lone Star Project out of Washington, D.C. He said DeLay had managed to unseat most of the senior members of the Texas delegation with any iota of power in Washington. "Tom DeLay has managed to remove every single leader in the Texas delegation, including himself," Angle said. "He's removed three ranking members, a key whip, and now the majority leader of the House."

Perry cannot call a special election to fill DeLay's unexpired term until DeLay submits his formal resignation letter. The resignation (actually a move out of state; DeLay plans to move to the D.C. area permanently) requires a special election to fill the unexpired term and a decision from the Republican Party to put a new candidate on the November ballot – possibly someone who has expressed interest in the race, like Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace, or another high-profile Republican from the area, such as state Sen. Kyle Janek of Houston or state Rep. Charlie Howard of Sugar Land.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

politicsTom DeLay, Tom DeLay, redistricting, Ronnie Earle, Jack Abramoff, Chris Bell, Rick Perry, Nick Lampson, Matt Angle, Martin Frost, Lone Star Project, David Wallace, Kyle Janek, Charlie Howard

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