Democrats File Suit To Keep Tom DeLay On The November Ballot

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Democrats File Suit To Keep Tom DeLay On The November Ballot

Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jun 09, 2006 9:36 pm

Democrats File Suit To Keep Tom DeLay On The November Ballot
by Bob Dunn, Jun 08, 2006, 12 44 pm

In a surprise twist to the Tom DeLay saga, the Texas Democratic Party filed suit Thursday in an attempt to keep the resigning Republican Congressman’s name on the November ballot.

The suit, filed in Travis County 126th District Court, seeks to undo an hours-old declaration by Republican Party Chair Tina Benkiser that DeLay is ineligible to run in the general election.

If DeLay doesn’t serve as the party’s candidate for Congressional District 22, then according to the Texas Election Code, no other candidate is allowed to replace him, the suit says.

Lawyers for Houston’s Riddle & Brazil law firm, which filed the action, obtained a temporary restraining order at about 5:10 p.m. from Judge Darlene Byrne. Sources familiar with the case said the order prevents Benkiser from calling a meeting of the so-called District Executive Committee or taking other measures to replace DeLay as the Republican Party nominee for CD-22.

Benkiser, the only defendant named in the suit, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon. In a prepared statement released Friday morning, she said, “The lawsuit filed by the Democrat Party to deny voters a choice on the ballot in Congressional District 22 this November is the epitome of Democrat obstructionism.

“As usual, when Democrats can’t win at the ballot box, they run to the courthouse,” Benkiser said in the statement. “However, I am optimistic about the ultimate outcome of this matter, and I am confident that the voters in Congressional District 22 and across the State of Texas will have a great slate of Republican candidates to vote for in November.

DeLay announced in early April that he would resign from Congress, move from Sugar Land to Virginia and thus be ineligible to run for re-election on the November general election ballot. Benkiser formally declared him ineligible Wednesday night.

DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty expressed disdain over the legal action. “Mr. DeLay is now a resident of Virginia and ineligible to run for office in Texas,” she said. “The party of baseless, frivolous lawsuits is at it again, and the only surprise is it took them more than 30 minutes to file it.”

The lawsuit says DeLay never intended to complete his run for re-election, and instead schemed to collect campaign contributions and convert them to his own use.

“DeLay deceived voters into giving him ‘campaign contributions’ – money he intends to use to pay his attorneys to defend him from criminal charges...” the suit states.

“DeLay has finally let voters in on his true intent: he wants to have his name removed from the ballot in November and replaced with another candidate while keeping the money contributed to his primary campaign, in clear violation of the Texas Election Code,” the lawsuit says.

GOP party chairs in Fort Bend, Harris, Galveston and Brazoria counties already have scheduled executive committee meetings through which precinct chairs within respective county portions of CD-22 would vote to elect one of their members to the four-person District Executive Committee.

Fort Bend County GOP Chair Gary Gillen said Benkiser told him Wednesday night she wished to call a District Executive Committee meeting for June 22 to select a replacement candidate for DeLay. However, scheduling conflicts in Harris County likely would force that meeting to be delayed until after June 26.

Thursday’s lawsuit by the Texas Democrats adds a new level of chaos to the already-complex replacement process.

But despite the temporary restraining order, Gillen said, “we would still do what we were supposed to do” at the county level, and hold a special executive committee meeting June 14 to select Fort Bend County’s representative to the District Executive Committee.

Hounded by allegations of campaign finance violations in Texas, and speculation over a federal investigation into disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings, DeLay indicated in April that the re-election race had become a personal referendum. A different Republican candidate could focus voters on the issues, and retain the congressional seat for the district, he suggested.

The lawsuit filed Thursday called that a ruse. It cited a May article in Texas Monthly magazine in which former Fort Bend County GOP chair Eric Thode is reported to have known since early January that DeLay was planning to withdraw as a congressional candidate after the primary.

DeLay, the suit states, “knew before the primary that he intended to withdraw after the vote. He also knew that if he ran and won the primary and then withdrew, the party could not replace him on the ballot” legally.

“DeLay’s ruse, with the cooperation of the Republican Party, is to be administratively declared ineligible to hold office by reason of inhabitancy,” the suit states.

The lawsuit says that DeLay’s attempt to be declared ineligible goes against state Election Code and the U.S. Constitution.

The election code says ineligibility can be declared if public records conclusively establish a candidate’s ineligibility, the lawsuit states. The Constitution says eligibility criteria for serving as a U.S. Rep. include being at least 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and “an inhabitant ‘when elected’ of the state he or she will represent.

Thus, “nothing in the public record conclusively establishes that DeLay fails to satisfy any of these criteria,” the lawsuit says.

The suit asks for a permanent injunction preventing any Republican candidate but DeLay from appearing on the general election ballot for CD-22.

“The Texas Democratic Party has no adequate remedy at law because damages from Benkiser’s anticipated unlawful conduct are incalculable and could not serve as adequate compensation for the wrong inflicted on the Texas Democratic Party and voters of the state,” the lawsuit states.

State and local Republican Party officials have anticipated a legal challenge to DeLay’s declaration of ineligibility for months, and have made a visible effort to see that meetings related to the candidate replacement process are conducted according to state law and party regulation.

However, many political observers felt any legal action likely would be taken by Nick Lampson.

Lampson campaign manager Mike Malaise said in late April that the campaign has “never conceded that Tom DeLay can legally remove his name from the ballot simply because he saw he was going to lose and wanted the chance to choose his successor.” Instead, DeLay “should have dropped out and let the voters decide.”

On Friday, Malaise noted Lampson is not a party to the lawsuit, adding “he is going to win this race whether Tom Delay or one of his handpicked cronies is on the ballot.”

“Texas voters have only Tom Delay to thank for this mess,” Malaise said. “When Tom DeLay can’t win in a fair vote, he looks to change the rules. Texans saw that with his destructive mid-decade redistricting effort and his attempts to change House rules to keep his majority Leader post after being indicted. DeLay is, quite possibly, the biggest sore loser in the storied history of Texas politics.”

Gillen said that the lawsuit “makes sense” as a political strategy by the Democratic Party.

“If they keep us in a position where no one can be ‘the candidate,’ then no one can be out raising money” and actively running against Lampson, he said.

A hearing has been set for June 22 on whether to grant a temporary injunction, in effect extending the terms of the temporary restraining order, according to sources familiar with the case.

http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/1272/te ... -on-ballot

Too clever by half. If this is the kind of thing the Dems have to rely on for victory, they are in pretttttttttty sad shape. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to put Bush on the ballot all over the nation.
Corlyss
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