Tom DeLay’s Clever Plan

From Holden:

Ha! Looks like Tom DeLay’s clever plan to remove his name from the ballot in Texas is about to blow up in his face. DeLay and the Republican Party of Texas waited until the Bugman had won the Republican primary before trying to get him off the ballot by having him claim residency in Virginia, thus disqualifying DeLay for the November election and allowing the Republicans to pick a replacement late in the game. Funny thing is, the US consititution says nothing about a congressional condidate’s residency prior to election, it only requires that on election day he be a resident of the district he seeks to represent.

The Republicans kicked the case up to federal court, but they landed in the court of Judge Sam Sparks who has a reputation as a no-nonsense judge. Sparks indicated yesterday that he believes DeLay voluntartily withdrew from the race, in which case the Republicans would not be able to replace his name on the ballot. Sparks seems to think DeLay’s move to Virginia is nothing but a sham intended to circumvent Texas election law. Wonder where he got that idea?

Read on:

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks made no ruling Monday on Democrats’ efforts to keep DeLay on the November ballot for his old seat after hearing testimony about the Sugar Land Republican’s June 9 resignation from Congress and his move to Virginia.

But the judge’s questions and comments suggested that DeLay’s name could stay despite his testimony in Austin on Monday that he intends to live and work in Virginia indefinitely and, therefore, is ineligible to run in Texas.

[snip]

The U.S. Constitution says a person is eligible to run for Congress if he or she is 25 years old, a U.S. citizen and an inhabitant of the state when elected — not when they run for office. Although DeLay testified that he became a Virginia resident in April, he acknowledged during cross-examin- ation by Democratic lawyer Cris Feldman that he could not predict where he would be on Election Day.

James Bopp, the GOP’s lawyer, argued that a U.S. Supreme Court case allows state parties to establish the qualifications of candidates and that the judge could rule DeLay ineligible based on his intent to live in Virginia indefinitely.

The Democrats argued that DeLay’s move is a sham to circumvent state election law.

Under the law, the Republican Party could not have replaced DeLay if he had simply withdrawn from the race after winning the party’s nomination. But state GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser testified that she ruled DeLay ineligible after he wrote her a letter saying he was moving to Virginia and she was presented with copies of his Virginia driver’s license, voter registration and state tax documents.

Sparks seemed skeptical.

He noted that the Constitution establishes no residency requirement for a congressional candidate. He questioned how a state party official could rule a candidate ineligible because he moved during the campaign if there is no residency requirement until a person is elected.

The judge also said he considered DeLay’s actions a “de facto withdrawal.”

Sparks questioned why DeLay’s staff, which prepared the letter stating his plans to move to Virginia, sent a draft to Benkiser several days before sending a final version.

The judge worried that the election law could be abused. He suggested that lawyers for DeLay and the GOP could have taken weeks to prepare a rationale that would allow the party to replace DeLay.

In his testimony, DeLay said that he has leased office space from a Washington law firm, that his wife continues to live in Texas overseeing their charity work and that he moved no belongings other than a car. He is living in a Virginia condominium that he and his wife have owned for about 12 years.