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More on the end of the DeLay ballot replacement lawsuit

All right, so as we know from yesterday, the litigation process in the matter of Tom DeLay and the CD22 ballot has come to a close, with the Republican Party of Texas finally giving up the ghost after suffering a judicial shutout. You already know the details of the story, so I’ll just highlight this little bit of whimsy for you:

DeLay was at his Sugar Land home Monday, but refused to come to the phone to discuss his intentions. When a reporter knocked on his door later, no one answered. Dani DeLay Ferro, DeLay’s spokeswoman and daughter, did not provide an immediate response.

You know, for a guy who claims to be a resident of Virginia, he sure does spend a lot of time in Sugar Land. And am I the only one who read that paragraph above and pictured DeLay in his room with his fingers in his ears going “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!”

Regardless, the issue of DeLay’s whereabouts does provide a nice lead-in to this campaign season’s official Moment of Zen, as related in Fort Bend Now.

Neither DeLay nor Benkiser could not be reached for comment on Monday. Fort Bend County Republican Party Chairman Gary Gillen said Monday evening he has not heard from DeLay or Benkiser.

“We are 92 days away from an election, so we need to move forward,” Gillen said.

As for the party’s candidate, the fact DeLay now apparently is a Virginia resident would not be a barrier because he could easily move back to Texas by election day, Gillen said.

Um, Gary? Just FYI, but the point about DeLay being able to “easily move back to Texas by election day” was precisely the basis for Judge Sparks’ ruling in favor of the Democrats in their lawsuit. I mean, I’m glad that you see it our way and all, but I’ve got Tina Benkiser on Line Two wanting to talk to you about message coordination. You might want to take that call.

Anyway. More Gillen:

However, he added, “I don’t know if that’s his plan or not, and we need to give him time to think this through. He needs to think very carefully, what’s the right thing to do.”

Well, I’m not sure if DeLay is the one who thought this up or not, but the hot rumor now is that the GOP is exploring the write-in candidate option.

The write-in effort in the 22nd District of Texas would bring a fresh, unsullied face to the hunt. “Lampson’s best shot has always been against DeLay–Lampson’s record is too liberal for a Republican district,” a GOP official said, signaling the tack the party plans to take. An official close to DeLay said: “Nick Lampson would lose this race to a write-in candidate who had any name ID at all.”

The write-in candidate has not been chosen, but Republican officials in Washington said they have a good chance of retaining the seat if it is a credible candidate like a mayor, judge or state legislator. Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace has expressed interest in running. Write-in candidates have until Aug. 29 to apply for a slot on the ballot. National Republicans are prepared to put money into the write-in campaign if a promising candidate is found. “You can buy name ID,” said a Republican official, using campaign shorthand for making a candidate well known in the district.

But the notion of a write-in campaign drew a different reaction in Texas. “This would be met with ridicule and scorn,” said Bill Miller, a Republican consultant with close ties to the state’s GOP legislative leadership. “This strategy would be like handing the seat to the Democrats on a silver platter,” Miller said. “Tom Delay will be remembered for the craziest end to his political career.”

Miller said it is arrogant to think voters will support a write-in gambit. “Anointing a candidate never works,” Miller said. “Voters are likely to say, ‘The hell with ’em’ and write in their own name, their kid’s name.” Plus, if his name remained on the ballot, it is likely DeLay would attract some of the vote away from the write-in candidate.

[…]

Royal Masset, the former political director of the Republican Party of Texas, said DeLay’s old district is till “winnable” by the GOP even with DeLay as the candidate, but a write-in campaign would be “a disaster.” Masset warned his fellow Republicans to recall the last time they ran a major write-in effort.

In 1976, Donald Yarbrough, an unknown with a mess of legal woes said he was called to run “by God” for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Yarbrough won the Democratic primary on the strength of sharing the same last name with several notable Texas Democrats. Republicans thought they saw an opening and launched a statewide write-in campaign for their own candidate who also boasted a famous last name – Houston, as is Sam Houston. Masset said the GOP bombarded voters with free pencils and copies of sample write-in ballots. But Yarbrough won with over 90% of the vote. Later, Justice Yarbrough was indicted for perjury by DeLay’s nemesis, prosecutor Ronnie Earle, then fled to Grenada and was discovered there attending medical school when the U.S. invaded the Caribbean island nation.

Greg thinks this is a head fake, though I at least can’t tell what the real move is if it is just a fake. I’ve written about the write-in option before (here and here), and I agree with Miller and Masset. I’d put the over/under on a write-in candidate at 20%, and I’d probably bet the under. A write-in would get no straight-ticket votes, and I can just about guarantee that many voters who are forced to try and spell out a candidate’s name using the eSlate trackwheel will find the process highly annoying.

Chris Elam also mocks the write-in plan, while suggesting that the last best option at this point is for the local GOP to start pushing Libertarian candidate Bob Smither. I agree that makes more sense than the write-in scenario does, but it’s still not without some risk for the Republicans. For them to push Smither, they can’t have a simple “vote straight ticket” message. Getting away from that gives people room to think about voting for other non-Republicans as well (like, say, one of the Republicans-turned-Independent in the Governor’s race), and also increases the likelihood of undervoting in downballot races. It also risks alienating party loyalists who think Republicans should support only Republicans, or who have philosophical disagreements with the Libertarian platform. I think if the local GOP does decide to push Smither, he’ll have the best performance by an LP candidate ever in Texas (which is not too high a hurdle to clear, at least based on 2004), but he’ll still lose.

All of this, of course, assumes that DeLay will ultimately make his de facto withdraw official, which seems to be the way the wind is blowing today. I figure he’s got to make a decision sooner or later – even the hairbrained write-in option has an August 29 deadline looming, with a requirement to gather petition signatures to get those votes to count. We ought to know soon what the plan is from here.

UPDATE: He’s outta there!

Dogged by scandal, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay intends to withdraw as a candidate for Congress, a Republican strategist said today, a step that would allow the party to field a write-in candidate in hopes of holding his seat.

May I just say YES! Woo hoo! Hot damn! Hell, let’s all sing a song.

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again

Altogether shout it now
There’s no one
Who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

The best part of this, of course, is the apparent embrace of the write-in candidate strategy. Let me just say that I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of dumping a million bucks or so into a Name Recognition/Voter Education process for getting people to cast a write in ballot. Be sure to provide a spelling guide if the Chosen One for this is Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

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

As of now, I’ve already got it. Thanks very much.

UPDATE: Fort Bend Now has more.

In the statement announcing his withdrawal, DeLay said, “I strongly encourage the Republican Party to take any and all actions necessary to give Texas voters an up-or-down choice this Fall between two major party candidates.”

But GOP officials and office holders contacted Tuesday were unclear about how that could happen.

With DeLay off the ballot, it appears the only way a Republican has a chance to square off against Lampson in the congressional race is as a write-in candidate.

“It doesn’t make much sense to me,” Kathy Haigler, a Harris County GOP precinct chair and Senate District 11 representative on the Texas Republican Party Executive Committee, said of a write-in campaign. She said she could see a scenario where several of the candidates who’d campaigned to replace DeLay on the ballot would become write-in candidates.

“If you’ve got seven Republican write-ins, Lampson would win,” she said. The only way it might work, she added, would be if DeLay promoted a particular write-in candidate.

Well, we all thought from the beginning that DeLay wanted to handpick his successor. I just didn’t expect it to happen this way. Bring it on, I say. The Stakeholder has more.

I have a copy of DeLay’s full statement beneath the fold. Click the More link for a breathless display of disingenuousness, arrogance, and self-pity.

UPDATE: Bride of Acheron suggests a candidate the Republicans can unite behind as a write-in. And I’ve added a statement from Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie beneath the fold as well.


DeLay’s statement:

Earlier this year, I resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives and became a resident of the State of Virginia to establish my new business, and where I now legally reside, pay taxes and vote.

This decision was and is irrevocable, which I made clear from Day One.

My action was taken in accordance with Texas law, federal precedent and common sense. I felt it was my duty to allow Texas Republicans to choose a new candidate for the Fall Election Ballot.

In November, voters in the 22nd District of Texas deserve a choice between candidates who actually live in the District, between a Republican and Democrat, and between those two people whose names should appear on the ballot.

Unfortunately, the Federal courts have slammed the door shut on a fair ballot choice between two 22nd District residents representing our two major parties.

The court ruling allows a Democrat – who just moved into this community – to have his name appear on the ballot, but denies the Republican Party the opportunity to place a District Republican resident on that same ballot.

Voters should be concerned. While judges are denying Texas voters a fair choice this Fall, the courts allowed the Democrat Party in New Jersey to withdraw Robert Torricelli and substitute Frank Lautenberg in a similar case just weeks before the 2002 U.S. Senate election.

As a Virginia resident, I will take the actions necessary to remove my name from the Texas ballot. To do anything else would be hypocrisy.

I strongly encourage the Republican Party to take any and all actions necessary to give Texas voters an up-or-down choice this Fall between two major party candidates.

Richie’s statement:

Regardless of his excuses, Tom DeLay is abandoning his party and his state with his cut-and-run strategy. DeLay orchestrated this whole ballot scam because he knew he was fighting an uphill battle running against Nick Lampson, a strong candidate who appeals to Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. Nick Lampson is, without question, the best candidate to represent Congressional District 22 in the House of Representatives. We are pleased that DeLay’s quest to circumvent voters and the electoral process has finally come to a close, and we look forward to a fair and ethical election.

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4 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I like Bride of Acheron’s suggestion but I don’t think it goes far enough. We should cut directly to the chase and elect Joe Lieberman as the Republican Representative of TX 22.

  2. Charles Hixon says:

    As a Virginia resident, I will take the actions necessary to remove my name from the Texas ballot.

    History has shown that even residents of Heaven have been unsuccessful at this.

  3. Chris Elam says:

    If the State GOP is still powerful enough after this mess to get people to listen and respond to ANY message – then they have little to worry about in November, top or bottom of the ballot.

  4. Jeff N. says:

    DeLay’s official statement says: “Voters should be concerned. While judges are denying Texas voters a fair choice this Fall, the courts allowed the Democrat [sic] Party in New Jersey to withdraw Robert Torricelli and substitute Frank Lautenberg in a similar case just weeks before the 2002 U.S. Senate election.” What a paranoid mind.

    The legal issues in these two cases really weren’t similar. If the RPT’s lawyers had left his case in state court, where the TDP filed it, the issues and the outcome might’ve been different, because the Texas Supreme Court is made up of nine Republicans. His real complaint, if he has one, is about his party’s legal strategy, which was a complete failure.