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Not Running, DeLay to Remain on Nov. Ballot


Bowing to a series of adverse rulings by the federal courts, the Texas Republican Party has dropped its effort to replace Tom DeLay as the Republican candidate in his suburban Houston district. They abandoned their court fight yesterday after a supreme court justice upheld a lower court ruling.

Joining us to sort this out this NPR's Peter Overby. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: Bring us up to date on this case. This is his traditional suburban Houston district?

OVERBY: That's right. And the chronology here goes back to last fall. He was under fire on a couple of ethics fronts, and he announced that he would step aside as majority leader after he was indicted in Texas. Then, in the spring, he announced that he would step - that he would resign from office later in the spring.

At - he did that after he won the March primary in his district, so...

MONTAGNE: It sounds a little complicated.


MONTAGNE: But the gist is, he wanted to, somehow, lock, well - what did he want? He wanted another candidate - he wanted to hold on to that district?

OVERBY: That's right. Things were getting tight for him, but he was already the nominated candidate of the Republican Party. And that's where the problem was, legally. The Republicans wanted to replace him. The Democrats went to court to stop them. And what it came down to was that Delay was an eligible candidate in his district, and the only eligibility requirement in terms of residency is that you have to be living in the district on - or you have to be living in the state, excuse me - on Election Day.


OVERBY: The Republicans couldn't say, because DeLay had moved to Virginia, that he was no longer an eligible candidate. They took it to the Supreme Court yesterday, and it was in and out in an afternoon. Antonin Scalia refused to hear their restraining order bid against the Democrats, so now there's not enough time for the Republicans to deal with this before the election.

MONTAGNE: Right. So, most simply put, Tom DeLay is now the candidate and he's not a very attractive candidate because he's been embroiled in an investigation of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Right?

OVERBY: Right. That's right. He's also under indictment in Texas on money laundering. That goes back to the 2002 campaign, when he - his organization was raising money and working to put Republican majorities in the state legislature so they could redraw the congressional districts. That worked. They got five new congressional seats - five new Republican seats - out of the redistricting. But it also got him indicted, which forced him to step aside as majority leader. And you see how everything else unfolds from there.

MONTAGNE: And Peter, just turning away from Tom DeLay for a moment, Abramoff, again, was also the source of trouble for another senior Republican member who just decided not to seek reelection in November, yesterday. That would be Bob Ney, of Ohio.

OVERBY: Bob Ney. Yeah.

MONTAGNE: Ney. Yeah, of Ohio. Talk with us about that, briefly.

OVERBY: Okay, um, Ney has come up in four plea agreements - he's been mentioned. He came up, he was prominently mentioned in a trial this spring in which his former chief of staff - who has pleaded guilty - which is the key witness against the defendant. Ney has not been charged, but he is the member of Congress whose name is most prominently mentioned in the Abramoff case.

MONTAGNE: Right. And he is definitely not running, definitely not on the ballot. Thank you very much, Peter.

OVERBY: Certainly.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Peter Overby.

This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

This is NPR News.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.