DeLay Bids Farewell to Congress as Democrats Fight to Keep His Name on Ballot

The Texas Democratic Party won a temporary restraining order Thursday blocking the process that would name a replacement for Republican U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot.

State District Judge Darlene Byrne ordered Texas GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser not to convene party officials to decide on DeLay's replacement until after a June 22 court hearing.

Democrats are trying to keep DeLay's name on the ballot, which would also keep his legal problems in front of voters. DeLay leaves Congress on Friday.

State Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie said Democrats are trying to keep the GOP from creating a "sham vacancy" for the Republican nomination for the 22nd Congressional District.

Richie said DeLay intentionally waited until after the primary to get out of the race, announcing he would abandon his re-election campaign and move to the Washington suburbs. He said the GOP then declared DeLay ineligible, assuming he would move from the state, and started a replacement nomination process while he was still in Congress and eligible for the ballot.

A phone call to the Texas Republican Party by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned Thursday night.

Republican lawyers argued in court Thursday that DeLay's intent is the deciding factor, according to a report on the Austin American-Statesman Web site.

"The Democrats have resorted to their usual method of turning to the courthouse if they can't win at the ballot box," Gretchen Essell, communications director for the Republican Party of Texas, said in Friday editions of the San Antonio Express-News.

"We have followed the process that is delineated in the Texas Election Code. We are confident of the outcome," Essell said.

DeLay is awaiting trial on money laundering charges he says are politically motivated.