Tom Delay An Unlikely GOP Comeback Kid?

Tom DeLay might be back in Congress after all, if a bizarre judicial ruling stands.

Could Tom DeLay be headed back to the House?

A source close to the ex-Congressman tells TIME that DeLay is planning an aggressive campaign to retake the House seat he quit in June if an appeals court lets stand a ruling by a federal judge last week that his name must stay on November’s ballot—even though he has moved to Virginia. “If it isn’t overturned, Katy bar the door!” says a G.O.P. official. “Guess he’ll have to fire up the engines on the campaign and let ‘er rip.”

It would be quite amusing. I can’t imagine the ruling won’t be overturned on appeal, though.

UPDATE: Rick Hasen disagrees and cites precedent.

The leading case on the conflict between state law and the Qualifications Clause is Schaefer v. Townsend, 215 F.3d 1031 (9th Cir. 2000), in which the Ninth Circuit held that “California’s requirement that candidates to the House of Representatives reside within the state before election violates the Constitution by handicapping the class of nonresident candidates who otherwise satisfy the Qualifications Clause.” (See also the Lowenstein and Hasen casebook at 581, briefly discussing Schaefer.) The case has a discussion of the Framers’ intent in drafting the “when elected” language of the Qualifications Clause, a discussion cited by the district court in the DeLay case.

It strikes me as quite bizarre that a candidate who has withdrawn from a House race on grounds that he is moving out of the state, has in fact moved to another state hundreds of miles away, and declared that he has no intention of residing in the state in question by election day would nonetheless be deemed a “potential inhabitant” and thus declared–against his will, mind you–eligible.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Congress, Law and the Courts, US Constitution, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mac says:

    I don’t find the idea amusing at all.

    As a conservative, and someone who’s very concerned with reclaiming my party from the Gordon Gekko wannabe’s and K-Street sycophants, the very IDEA is a personal affront to me.

    If the Republicans were stupid enough to allow it, they would surely get everything that was coming to them for it.

    I guarantee…

    and I’m not even a Cajun.


  2. James Joyner says:

    Mac: The reason it’s amusing is that the Republicans really wouldn’t have much of a choice: vote for DeLay or give the seat up to a Democrat. DeLay stepped aside but a judge is trying to force the GOP to run him.

  3. The law is to clear on this. As near as I can tell, the judge is basing his decision on the Texas law having a 2 to 2.5 month deadline for different things you can do about the race. This is seen as a residency requirement. If upheld, then any states filing deadline before the election day (the residency requirement in the US constitution) would also have to be thrown out. Now that’s a bit of “imaginative” judicial reasoning.

  4. Patrick McGuire says:

    Oh, I love the delicious irony of it all. The Republicans wanted to put someone else on the ballot but it was the Democrats who prevented it from happening, probably expecting the GOP ticket to be empty or, with Delay on it, the same thing.

    Now they have forced the issue and might end up bringing back their own worst nightmare into Congress again. Ya gotta love it.

  5. TJ says:

    I think that conservatives should be cautious about criticizing a federal judge who actually sticks the the letter of the Constitution when ruling.

    As a resident of CD 22, I want a new Republican on the ballot as much as anyone, but I have to admit that after reading the opinion, Judge Sparks’ is correct in his interpretation, and it would be judicial activism for him to rule otherwise.

    It will be interesting to see if DeLay can repair the rifts he caused here when he threw us in this mess. I think a lot of people feel a little betrayed down here when he ran in the primaries without being committed to run in the fall.