Olivia and I drove down to Fort Bend last night where we hung out with some fellow Democrats and enjoyed a nice not-too-hot summer evening. That particular Beck's Prime is right on a waterfront, and there were ducks and turtles to look at, which needless to say was of great interest to Olivia. I missed some of the speechifying because of that, but these are the sacrifices one makes as a parent
What was of great interest to the rest of us was the question of what Tom DeLay might be up to now that Judge Sparks has ruled he either must appear on the November ballot for CD22 or withdraw and cede the race to Nick Lampson. DeLay was evasive on this point last night at a different celebration in FBC.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay told a friendly crowd Friday that Democrats seeking to force him onto the November ballot "may get exactly what they want."
After savoring a standing ovation, he quickly said the comment was not an announcement that he will seek the office he vacated last month.
"The last thing in the world Tom DeLay wants is to try and win this race and lose. That's why he quit the first time," said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson.
"I do not think he will come back and make a significant effort to hold the seat."
It really is weird. First, DeLay makes a big point about collecting petition signatures for his primary ballot spot, which he says shows the depth and breadth of support he has in CD22. Then a week or two later he's phoning then-FBGOP Chair Eric Thode to inquire about procedures in the event he dropped off the ballot. At the time of his resignation announcement, there was much speculation that he wanted to have control over who his successor would be, but there's been absolutely zero indication he's taken any interest in that process, and the one candidate who could reasonably have been considered his heir apparent has made a consistent fool of himself during the Gang of Four proceedings. He insists he's a resident of Virginia, which is why he's ineligible and can be replaced instead of withdrawing, then makes no effort to actually pull up roots in Sugar Land, testifies that he can't say where he'll be on Election Day even though that's the heart of the Democrats' case, and refers to the Sugar Land home where his wife still lives as "my house" when a reporter asks for a reaction post-ruling. At the risk of dime-store psychoanalyzing, it's like he just doesn't care any more about what happens.
Well, that's not entirely true. He still clealy cares a lot about himself.
On Friday, DeLay received a warm welcome from several hundred people at the Sugar Land Marriott for a previously scheduled tribute, co-sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership and the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.
They lauded him for his business-friendly voting record and for bringing what they say was $1.3 billion worth of economic impact to the Houston region in the last year.
An ice sculpture with DeLay's name carved in the middle greeted guests as they walked into the hotel ballroom, where a giant American flag hung behind the podium. Centerpieces included DeLay bobbleheads. And there was a "gift table" of presents for the former congressman, his wife, Christine, and daughter, Danielle Ferro.
DeLay was typically feisty, criticizing the federal judiciary in general and Sparks' ruling in particular. He referred to the court's finding that the U.S. Constitution only requires a House candidate to "inhabit" the state he seeks to represent on Election Day. Republicans asserted that DeLay was ineligible and could be replaced on the ballot because he established residence in Virginia.
"For this guy to say he can't tell where I'm going to be on Election Day, and that I am forced to be on the ballot, well, they may get exactly what they want," DeLay said. "(Sparks) virtually declared Texas election law unconstitutional. Only in this country can the federal judiciary force someone to run for office."
He said he will await the court appeal before deciding what to do, but said he's ready for battle in whatever forum.
"I always have the fight in me," he said. "I'm not quitting, I'm not stopping the fight for the conservative cause. I'm just finding a different arena to fight in. I could be the Democrats' worst nightmare outside of Congress."
Jillson agrees there may be some sympathy for DeLay but also sees "a level of disgust that he didn't know what he was doing" in plotting his departure from Congress.
"He did it in a way that showed he had not mastered the rules, which is not typical Tom DeLay," Jillson said. "He either misunderstood them or chose to mischaracterize them and hope no one else understood them."
An additional impetus for putting off the resignation until now was suggested by John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). "He needed to raise money for the defense fund. That was the bottom line," Feehery said. "He wanted to make sure he could take care of himself in the court of law." Under federal campaign rules, any reelection money a lawmaker raises can be used to pay legal fees stemming from official duties.
Finally, on a side note, it may be time to bone up on Ohio's ballot withdrawal laws. You can never be too careful these days.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 08, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack