AUSTIN, Texas – Former Rep. Tom DeLay testified Monday that he lives and votes in Virginia, bolstering the Republican Party's claim that he is ineligible to appear on the November ballot in Texas.
But Democrats, hoping to keep GOP scandal on voters' minds, argued in federal court that DeLay's name should stay on the ballot because he maintains a home in suburban Houston and could be living there before Election Day.
DeLay and state Republican Party chair Tina Benkiser seemed to agree under questioning that they can't say conclusively whether DeLay would be residing in the state on Nov. 7.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks did not immediately rule on the dispute but disagreed with part of the Republicans' argument.
Republican leaders insist DeLay did not "withdraw" from the election, which could mean that he couldn't be replaced. They say Benkiser declared him "ineligible" because of his move to Virginia, thus allowing the party to choose a new nominee.
Sparks, without saying how he will rule, said his legal opinion "will clearly say this is a withdrawal. ... The congressman, for whatever reason, decided not to complete the election."
DeLay, under indictment on campaign-finance charges, won the Republican primary for his district in March but decided against re-election a month later and resigned from Congress this month. He is awaiting trial on charges of illegally funneling corporate campaign contributions to candidates for the Texas Legislature, and also has come under suspicion over his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
GOP leaders want another Republican to replace DeLay on the ballot and say state election law allows them to select one because DeLay has moved out of Texas.
Democrats want to block any other Republican from being listed on the ballot for the suburban Houston district, where Democratic former Rep. Nick Lampson is running.
Democrats contend that GOP officials worked for months to manipulate the election system to ensure that they could hand-pick a new nominee after DeLay's primary. Republicans claim Democrats are trying to "steal" the congressional seat.
DeLay testified in federal court that he has registered to vote in Virginia and that he cast a ballot in that state's recent primary. He said he has a Virginia driver's license, has state tax withheld in Virginia and lives in a condominium in Alexandria, Va.
DeLay acknowledged that he spent the weekend at his home in Sugar Land, near Houston, but testified that his wife is devoted to helping abused and neglected children and that she is continuing that work in the Houston area.