It’s morning and Tom DeLay is still quitting. How sweet is that?
Whenever the special election is to replace him, there could be a lot of people running to replace Tom DeLay.
Those who acknowledged interest in the seat or were mentioned as contenders included Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, state Rep. Robert Talton, Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, former state District Judge John Devine and lawyer Tom Campbell, who ran against DeLay in the March Republican Primary.
Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill said he started receiving calls from interested officials within minutes of hearing the news of DeLay’s decision.
“Numerous people have called me inquiring about the seat,” he said.
Other phones also were ringing as politicians gauged potential support or heard from backers.
“I’ve had a number of calls this evening. I’ll visit with my family and look at the process,” Eckels said. “I do have an interest in at least looking at the race.”
Eckels, of course, is already on the ballot in 2006, as are Talton and some others like State Sen. Kyle Janek and State Rep. Charlie Howard, whose names have been mentioned elsewhere. Would they need to abandon their existing re-election bids to run in a special, or would they be able to stay in those races up until the point that they won? And who would replace them on the ballot? Questions, we got questions.
Here’s a name to add to the list: Orlando Sanchez. Lord knows, the man needs a job, and he’s none too picky about what it is as long as it pays well.
Just kidding, mostly. Two people are in for sure:
Sugar Land Mayor Wallace said he got wind of DeLay’s decision over the weekend and began organizing a campaign.
“I’m running for that spot,” Wallace said Monday night.
“It is going to be a sprint. We have been working this weekend and today kind of organizing our campaign making sure we pull together a grass-roots team,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he will have to take his name off the ballot for the upcoming mayor’s race.
[Tom] Campbell, who came in a distant second with 30 percent of the vote in the March primary, said he still wants the position.
“I believe that Tom DeLay did the right thing in stepping aside and allowing the Republican Party to move forward,” Campbell said.
“This is vindication of our political process,” Campbell said. “Ethics and integrity do in fact matter and the people who voted on those issues spoke and have been heard.”
“It’s in our best interest to choose a nominee before the special election. Otherwise, the election is going to be a free-for-all,” Woodfill said. “The situation you don’t want is for our nominee to be someone different than the person who runs for the special.”
Two views of where we are now:
Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson is the Democratic nominee for the seat. Lampson’s campaign manager Mike Malaise said Lampson’s plans have not changed.
“Our challenge was always to get Nick’s message out there,” Malaise said. “We’ve got $2.5 million in the bank to help us do that. The other side is going to be playing catch-up to us in that regard.”
“We don’t know who our opponent will be. It’s unrealistic to say that Republicans have it in the bag.”
Malaise said Lampson hasn’t decided whether to run in the special election, and isn’t sure DeLay legally can withdraw from the November ballot.
Fort Bend County GOP Chairman Eric Thode said he was not informed of DeLay’s decision and that it took him and other county officials by surprise.
“I think they clearly have come to the conclusion that the race was going to be horribly difficult, ugly and expensive,” he said.
Thode said he thinks Republicans will hold on to the seat.
“He (Lampson) could probably not have defeated Tom DeLay. However, against a Republican with zero baggage the race is over already,” Thode said.
CD22 is still a Republican district. Whoever the Republican nominee is, by dint of being Republican and not Tom DeLay, will be the favorite. That said, he or she will not by any stretch be a lock. Lampson is well-funded and has been running a lot longer than whoever DeLay’s anointed successor will have been. Name recognition will also be a factor – how many people in CD22 could tell you who David Wallace is right now?
I find all of the DeLay-would-have-won-anyway bravado coming from the likes of Thode to be illuminating. If they really believe this, then for it to be a good thing from their perspective that a powerful incumbent like DeLay is stepping down, to be (hopefully) replaced by a freshman, they have to also believe that DeLay’s presence on the ballot was a net negative. Something has to make up for the loss of seniority and clout. He was on Appropriations, after all. Will Congressman David Wallace have that kind of juice?
Elsewhere, Josh Marshall says:
I think the story here is clear. Prosecutors knocking down one pin at a time. Paul Kiel and I were talking about this before I left the office early this evening: Rudy, to Buckham, to DeLay. They’re each going to go down. And the road map was clear — though largely implicit — in the Rudy plea documents.
DeLay’s lawyers must have sat him down over the last 72 hours and explained to him that he needs to focus on not spending most of the rest of his life in prison.
Now there’s a happy thought.
DeLay, who is withdrawing from his reelection bid, also is entitled under federal election rules to convert any or all of his remaining campaign funds to his legal expenses, whether or not he resigns, is indicted or loses the election. Election lawyers say one advantage of bowing out of the election now is that the campaign cash can be converted to pay legal bills immediately, instead of being drained in the course of a bid to stay in office.
That also means that whoever is the Chosen One by the State Republican Executive Committee will have to raise his or her own funds – there won’t be anything for DeLay to bequeath to their effort.
UPDATE: Here’s Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting’s statement:
“Tom DeLay’s resignation is an opportunity for the people of the 22nd Congressional District to finally have fair and honest representation in Congress, and Nick Lampson is the kind of honorable man who will represent Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.
It is clear that DeLay’s timing was designed to provide an unfair advantage to his hand-picked Republican candidate. Voters in the 22nd District are tired of being manipulated by the likes of Tom DeLay and his cronies and deserve the honorable and effective leadership that Nick Lampson will provide.
While DeLay is slinking out of Texas, he has left a stain of corruption on the Republican leadership in our state that Tom Craddick and Rick Perry can’t wash off. It’ll take the voters in November to undo the damage that Tom DeLay has done to our state.”
If you’re in the Clear Lake area and this all makes you want to celebrate – as well it should, join with the Bay Area New Democrats this afternoon to hoist a few in the Hammer’s honor:
Tuesday April 4: Join BAND in celebration of DeLay’s resignation.
Members of BAND will be at Boondoggles after work for a couple of hours to celebrate the beginning of the end of corruption in Congress with the withdrawal of Tom DeLay from the District 22 race. Boondoggles is at 4106 Nasa Road 1. From NASA go past Clear Lake, over the next bridge, then turn left. Boondoggles is in the back.
We will meet outside. BAND President has volunteered to buy the first round!
Have one for me while you’re at it.