AUSTIN, Texas – An appeals court agreed Thursday to speed up proceedings in a dispute over whether former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay should remain on the November ballot.
The case will be submitted to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 31, the New Orleans court ruled.
Texas Republicans asked the court earlier this week to expedite the case, saying there are deadlines in August for replacing the former U.S. House majority leader with another Republican nominee.
DeLay, who is awaiting trial on state charges of money laundering and conspiracy in a campaign finance case, won the Republican primary in March but resigned from Congress in June and said he has moved to Virginia.
GOP leaders want to replace the former U.S. House majority leader on the ballot and say state election law allows them to select a new candidate because DeLay moved out of Texas.
Democrats sued to block them. The party wants to keep DeLay and his legal troubles on the minds of voters and hopes to win his former seat in the 22nd congressional district, where Democrat Nick Lampson is running.
A federal judge in Austin determined that DeLay's name had to remain on the ballot, saying he was not convinced that DeLay would not return to Texas, despite his current Virginia residency.
Texas Democrats agreed to an expedited appeal.
"We both want DeLay dropped from the ballot. We just want to do it legally on November 7, while they want to do it illegally now," said Chris Feldman, an attorney for the Democrats.
The Republicans also have asked to be allowed to take preliminary steps toward filling what could be a ballot vacancy, depending on the higher court's ruling.
DeLay has left open the possibility that he will run for his old seat. He told a Republican audience in Sugar Land and said in a Fox News interview that he would wait and see how the 5th Circuit ruled before deciding.
"They may get exactly what they want," he said, referring to Democrats who want his name to stay on the ballot.