July 03, 2006
Is it a loophole or not?

The Chron looks to history for some guidance in the DeLay ballot replacement lawsuit.

Ben Campbell had just been sentenced to federal prison on bank fraud charges. He also was the Republican nominee for re-election to his state House district in Carrollton.

Rather than see his district lost to a long-shot Democrat, Campbell changed his official residence to San Marcos. The GOP declared him ineligible and replaced him on the ballot with the ultimate winner.

The Democratic nominee lamented he was the victim of a political ploy, saying the Republicans took advantage of a "loophole" in state election law.

The same "loophole" that played out in that 1994 race is at the heart of the federal court battle between Democrats and Republicans about whether the GOP can replace former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot for the 22nd Congressional District.


Austin lawyer Buck Wood, a Democrat not directly involved in the case, helped write the law more than 25 years ago.

Wood said both parties in the 1970s were putting up straw-man candidates in the primaries and then replacing them with stronger candidates once they saw who won the other party's nomination.

Wood said the Legislature wanted to stop this practice but not make it impossible for a party to replace a nominee in legitimate cases.

"They wanted to stop the parties from gaming the system," Wood said.

That did not stop the political parties from fighting about who was legitimately replacing candidates.

In the same election cycle that Republicans replaced Campbell, a Democratic state senator from East Texas moved from his home in Center to take a lobbying job in Austin.

The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler ruled that the Democrats could replace state Sen. Bill Haley because he no longer lived in the district, even though he had not resigned from office and continued to represent the district.

Most recently, in a case cited before Sparks, the Democrats replaced their nominee in an East Texas state House district in 2004 because he filed a statement that he had moved out of the district.


Democrats say what makes DeLay's case different is that Texas GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser has no power to rule on the eligibility of a candidate for Congress. They note that the Constitution says a candidate has to be an "inhabitant" of the state on Election Day and makes no reference to residency.


Republican lawyer Jim Bopp said the state law applies to DeLay because it is the constitutional "manner and means" of holding an election.

"The Democrats don't want the voters to have a choice. They want their guy to run unopposed so they can steal that seat," Bopp said.

Am I the only one who's amused that the Texas GOP had to import talent to fight this lawsuit (Bopp is from Indiana)? I mean, what, is Andy Taylor not good enough for them any more? Or was he just too busy figuring out how to sue Metro to return their phone calls?

Anyway. I've no idea how Judge Sparks will rule, and as I've said before, I'm not even sure I know how I want him to rule. I think it's perfectly clear that DeLay engineered this from the beginning, but the law may not be clear enough to stop him from getting away with it. That's a pretty good capsulized summary of DeLay's entire career in public office, isn't it?

On a side note, like Greg in TX22, I'd be curious to see what the additional filings that Judge Sparks called for look like. Anyone know if they're publicly available?

Finally, Bob Dunn looks at the state of the replacement process as it stands now. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: According to reader and Actual Attorney Jeff N., what Judge Sparks did was tell the parties to file anything else they might have by Friday. He did not call for anything in particular. So, there may be nothing new to see, but Jeff said he'd look later today to see if there's anything from Friday. Thanks, Jeff!

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 03, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

...lest we forget

"Andy Taylor is a political operative who operates as a lawyer," state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said. "I see him as the embodiment of the worst of the Republican Party." (March 4, 2005 Houston Chronicle)

Posted by: Dennis on July 3, 2006 1:00 PM

I've checked the Court's online docket sheet (late Monday afternoon), and it doesn't show any more filings. It's possible that something will show up late, but it looks like the parties are waiting for Judge Sparks to rule.

Posted by: Jeff N. on July 3, 2006 5:27 PM

It's pathetic that I have to come here for an answer to my bleg! I feel like the Chronicle. Nothing of significance is offered at my place! :)

Even if the filings exist, they may longer be interesting by the time we see them. I give an 80% probability that we see Sparks' decision tomorrow.

Posted by: Greg in TX22 on July 4, 2006 1:18 PM