U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks has ruled in favor Democrats desperately hoping to retain former Congressman Tom DeLay as their opposition in this fall's election.
After resigning from Congress, DeLay moved himself to Virginia. This action, he argued, made him ineligible to run for Congress. Democrats sued to keep his name on the ballot, arguing that because he had won his party's primary election, state law required his party keep his name on the ballot. To me, the behavior of the democrats is rather galling, given that democrats have rather shamelessly shuffled ballots in the past, and courts have shamelessly supported them.
But the court sided with Democrats, saying, "There is no evidence that DeLay will still be living in Virginia tomorrow, let alone on November 7, 2006, the only day that matters under the Qualification Clause of the United States Constitution...DeLay was chosen as the Republican nominee by the voters in the Republican primary, and he is still eligible to be the party's nominee." The reporter helpfully drops in the fact that the judge is a Republican appointee. Though intended, I believe, to discredit the claims of the Republican lawyers, it also reminds all of us that Republican judges at least try to follow the letter of the law, even if they reach conclusions that seem illogical to the public and that risk being overturned by higher courts.
I myself am not qualified to say how correct the opinion is, though it seems bizarre to me that having so deliberately renounced his Texas citizenship DeLay could still be a Texas resident for purposes of the election. When a ruling seems bizarre like this, it is usually the case that the judge has ignored another applicable law, one that creates an exception that invalidates the original decision. Perhaps that will be the case in this instance, and the decision will be overturned, but perhaps not. Rhymes With Right, who has followed this case closely, believes it is unlikely the case will be overturned:
While I disagree with the ruling, I cannot say that I have discerned any flaw in it substantial enough to get it overturned. If anything, the strongest argument that seems available to me is the presumption in favor of contested elections -- but the satutory scheme and the determination that DeLay remains the nominee may well be sufficient to meet the technical requirements for such a contested election.
At the end of the piece, Illinois' own Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Clinton crony and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is gleeful that Democrats will have DeLay on the ballot. He seems to think DeLay is some kind of albatross around the Republican neck. In a gruesome analogy he says, "We learned two things this week: George Bush can't seem to get rid of Osama bin Laden, and Texas Republicans can't get rid of Tom DeLay."
DeLay and other Republicans, however, aren't showing too much worry, though they will appeal the decision. "DeLay also predicted that the Democrats' legal maneuvers would yield a severe backlash among voters," reported the Washington Post.
Tom DeLay, former exterminator, spent over twenty years in Congress and has for the last decade been one of the most powerful individuals in the country. Rahm Emanuel is currently engaged in a civil war within his own party. On the question of whether all this maneuvering to keep DeLay on the ballot is a good idea for the Democrats, I think I'll bet on DeLay.