Rep. Tom DeLay, whose iron hold on the House Republicans melted as a lobbying corruption scandal engulfed the Capitol, told TIME that he will not seek reelection and will leave Congress within months.
The surprise decision was based on the sort of ruthless calculation that had once given him unchallenged dominance of House Republicans and their wealthy friends in Washington's lobbying community: he realized he might lose in this November's election. DeLay got a scare in a Republican primary last month, and a recent poll taken by his campaign gave him a roughly 50-50 shot of winning, in an election season when Republicans need every seat they can hang onto to avoid a Democratic takeover of the House.
"I'm a realist. I've been around awhile. I can evaluate political situations," DeLay told TIME at his kitchen table in Sugar Land, a former sugar plantation in suburban Houston. Bluebonnets are blooming along the highways. "I feel that I could have won the race. I just felt like I didn't want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause. I want to continue to work for a Republican majority."
Two, with him resigning from Congress there will be a special election for the unexpired term of CD22. Pop quiz, boys and girls: In what way will that special election differ from the November election, which will take place with a different Republican nominee regradless of the outcome of that special election? That's right - it takes a majority vote to win a special election for an unexpired term of Congress. With Steve Stockman and a Libertarian Party candidate on the November ballot, it was not at all farfetched for Nick Lampson to win the seat with a plurality of the vote. That won't cut it in a special - there will be a runoff if no one gets a majority. My guess is that DeLay thinks it'll be harder for Lampson to get a majority as a challenger than a simple plurality. Plus, he now has to win two elections.
The rest of the piece is an amazingly self-serving whinefest on DeLay's part. I'm not sure which is my favorite part, the one where he dismisses his two-going-on-three felonious ex-staffers as "Two people violated my trust over 21 years", or the part where he says he wanted to "spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come", as if he wouldn't have been the lead mud-flinger. If you've ever forgotten why you couldn't stand the smug, arrogant bastard, read the piece and remind yourself. All I can say is good riddance.
Given the likely need for a runoff in the special election to replace him, I'm wondering when that election will be. May is too early. Isn't the next uniform election date in September? You folks in the 22nd CD, get ready to do a lot of voting this year.
I'm sure this'll be linked all over the Internet and back tomorrow, but for now, here's some reaction and additional reading:
UPDATE: Here's the Galveston Daily News story. DeLay apparently spited the Chron by giving the GalvNews and Time an exclusive.
[DeLay] said his decision was best for his district and based on troubling internal polling numbers.
DeLay said he and his staff scrutinized internal polls in December and again after the March GOP primary and didn’t like what they saw.
Those polls showed him beating Democrat Nick Lampson in the general election but in a race that would be too close for comfort, DeLay said.
"Luckily there were more people that loved me than hated me," said DeLay. "Even though I thought I could win, it was a little too risky."
The Chron has an AP story for now.
DeLay also is likely to resign his seat and leave Congress by the end of May or mid-June. That would trigger a special election for his replacement.
DeLay was expected to disclose his plans Tuesday at a news conference in Houston[.]
Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace has announced he will be running in a special in May for DeLay's spot. Wallace also confirmed that DeLay is not running.
UPDATE: Press release from Nick Lampson:
"From day one I have been running because this district needs a Congressman who will make headlines for the right reasons and work for the mainstream values I share with the people of this district," Nick Lampson stated. "No matter who I face in the general election, I am going to fight hard and I am going to win in November."
If that's true, and if there ends up being a special election, then it's conceivably possible that SREC could nominate someone other than the winner of a special election to fill DeLay's spot vs. Lampson
Bride of Acheron quotes Nietsche, which seems fitting somehow.
UPDATE: One more update, from the Quorum Report, then I'm dragging my butt to bed:
April 3, 2006 10:48 PM
DAVID WALLACE'S MAYORAL WEBSITE DISAPPEARS AS WE POST
Likely Congressional candidate's website already being revamped.
Even as QR was posting this evening, the website that touted David G. Wallace's next run as mayor of Sugar Land was being replaced by a blank page that looks something like this. We can only assume the "under construction" means that we will see a new page touting Wallace's qualifications for Congress arrive shortly.
April 3, 2006 10:33 PM
MORE DETAILS ON THE DELAY STORY
Dragging the whole ticket down
Anecdotal information from the Tom DeLay's district clearly indicated many Republicans intended to sit out the election giving Democrat Nick Lampson a chance.
But the bigger story may be the drag he was becoming on the entire ticket. Having worked to build a Republican majority in Texas, DeLay was on the edge of being responsible for its loss.
Matt Angle, former chief of US Rep. Martin Frost, runs the Lone Star Project out of Washington, DC. Angle says DeLay's mission is now complete.
"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."
In Washington, there has been some speculation whether DeLay can remove himself from the ballot in Congressional District 22 at all, post-primary. Typically, under Texas law, the only way a candidate would be taken off the ballot is either to lie or to move out of state. The question, legally, is whether the ballot has been certified, and whether this timing - between the primary and run-off - is a loophole that gives the Republican Party a chance to offer up another candidate in Congressional District 22.
When contacted, the Texas Secretary of State's Office withheld comment pending legal review tomorrow morning. If the Governor can call a special election to replace Mr. DeLay, it is not far-fetched to believe that David Wallace can be placed on the ballot.
Tom DeLay easily swept the Republican primary in a safe Republican seat. Democrats speculate, however, that losing a third of the core Republican voters - added to the Democrat and independent voters in the general election - might have been enough to give DeLay pause when it comes to November.
Tom DeLay's resignation is a great victory in the fight to clean up corruption in politics, but the war is far from over. The culture of corruption is about a heck of a lot more than Tom DeLay. We need to move toward real progress by turning the conversation from how bad one man is to how good we can all be.
Unfortunately for Texas, Tom DeLay's protege, Gov. Rick Perry, has institutionalized Washington-style politics in Austin. The problem with the culture both in Washington and Texas is an excessive tolerance for corruption in which what they do that’s illegal isn’t as bad as what they do that’s legal. That’s why I’ve proposed my "Don't Mess With Ethics" reform plan.
A friend of mine joked that if God has a sense of humor, Tom DeLay will leave Congress and return to a Texas where Chris Bell is Governor. After DeLay’s surprising news, it’s looking like my friend might not be too far off the mark.