Monday, April 03, 2006

Exclusive: Tom DeLay Says He Will Give Up His Seat

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) attends the House Republican Conference at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge, Maryland, in this February 10, 2006 file photo. Delay, the embattled former Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, will drop out of his congressional reelection race and leave Congress, U.S. media reported on April 3, 2006. (Larry Downing/Files/Reuters)

Time Magazine has got the scoop on The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! From Time:

Rep. Tom DeLay, whose iron hold on the House Republicans melted as a lobbying corruption scandal engulfed the Capitol, told TIME that he will not seek reelection and will leave Congress within months. Taking defiant swipes at "the left" and the press, he said he feels "liberated" and vowed to pursue an aggressive speaking and organizing campaign aimed at promoting foster care, Republican candidates and a closer connection between religion and government.

"I'm going to announce tomorrow that I'm not running for reelection and that I'm going to leave Congress," DeLay, who turns 59 on Saturday, said during a 90-minute interview on Monday. "I'm very much at peace with it." He notified President Bush in the afternoon. DeLay and his wife, Christine, said they had been prepared to fight, but that he decided last Wednesday, after months of prayer and contemplation, to spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come. "This had become a referendum on me," he said. "So it's better for me to step aside and let it be a referendum on ideas, Republican values and what's important for this district."

The surprise decision was based on the sort of ruthless calculation that had once given him unchallenged dominance of House Republicans and their wealthy friends in Washington's lobbying community: he realized he might lose in this November's election. DeLay got a scare in a Republican primary last month, and a recent poll taken by his campaign gave him a roughly 50-50 shot of winning, in an election season when Republicans need every seat they can hang onto to avoid a Democratic takeover of the House.

"I'm a realist. I've been around awhile. I can evaluate political situations," DeLay told TIME at his kitchen table in Sugar Land, a former sugar plantation in suburban Houston. Bluebonnets are blooming along the highways. "I feel that I could have won the race. I just felt like I didn't want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause. I want to continue to work for a Republican majority."

In other words, Tom DeLay looked at the writing on the wall, and realized he was not going to win. Had he continued to run his re-election campaign, he would continue to be tainted as the poster child for Republican Party corruption in Washington. His campaign has become a referendum for Republican Party corruption--no matter how desperate DeLay wants to change the issues. Continuing on with the exclusive:

Putting the best face on the poll taken by his campaign, DeLay said it gave him "a little bit better than a 50/50 chance of winning reelection." Asked if that didn't mean that he could lose, he replied, "Could have. There's no reason to risk a seat. This is a very strong Republican district. It's obvious to me that anybody but me running here will overwhelmingly win the seat."

DeLay said he is likely to leave by the end of May, depending on the Congressional schedule and finishing his work on a couple of issues. He said he will change his legal residence to his condominium in Alexandria, Va., from his modest two-story home on a golf course here in the 22nd District of Texas. "I become ineligible to run for election if I'm not a resident of the state of Texas," he said, turning election law to his purposes for perhaps on last time. State Republican officials will then be able to name another Republican candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former House members who lost his seat in a redistricting engineered by DeLay.

Lampson has made a major issue of the lobbying scandal, and his campaign home page has a petition headed, "Tell Tom DeLay to Return the Dirty Money!," referring to contributions from he and his political action committees have received from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a one-time DeLay ally who pleaded guilty in January to three felonies, including conspiring to defraud clients and bribe public officials.

First, DeLay is heading for Alexandria Virginia--you can bet K-Street is going to pick him up! DeLay's withdrawal is both a blessing, and a curse for both political parties. DeLay was a high profile target, caught in an ensuing corruption scandal. His withdrawal takes away that high profile status that the Democrats would have used in their campaign strategy. The Time article claims that Nick Lampson made an issue of the DeLay scandal in his challenge. Now that DeLay is gone, Lampson will have to readjust his campaign strategy.

But it is not all roses for the Republicans. With DeLay now gone, they will need to find a replacement to run for DeLay's seat. And not only will the Republicans have to find a viable replacement, but they will also have to quickly put together a working campaign staff, an election strategy, and quickly generate funding for this replacement candidate's campaign--all within 7 months, and while Lampson will certainly be attacking such a candidate. This will be a difficult feat--even for the Republicans. I'm not sure they can do this.

This is a huge turn of events.

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