Why is Delay resigning midterm?
April 7, 2006 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Politics Filter: Why is Rep. Tom Delay resigning in June rather then serving his term out? Please no partisan bickering...

I guess I don't understand. I'm a political junky and follow the news obsessively. No one is talking about why he's resigning mid-term instead of finishing it out. Normally a midterm resignation means something bad happened but past what we know already there is no indication of something coming in June.

My friend who is a federal politics news reporter thinks Delay is trying to preserve his image so that when he's a lobbyist he isn't disgraced... this argument doesn't really make any sense to me. Nor does that idea that he will get out before the summer recess because there is still a lot of time left in the year.

Please - I don't want this to be a screaming match about politics. I know Delay is a polarizing figure but I'm just curious to hear thoughtful opinions.
posted by meta x zen to Law & Government (19 answers total)
He thinks that in a bi-election there's a better chance that he'll be replaced by a Republican than if he waits and lets that seat be contested next November.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2006

I just got an email from my friend quoting Rep. Todd Tiahrt saying roughly that Delay resigning removes Delay as a target for the Democrates during the election. Supposedly a self sacrificing move... similiar to his quotes in his resignation. Doesn't sound like the real answer at the end.
posted by meta x zen at 5:51 PM on April 7, 2006

That is a good point Steven... Thank you... Can't fill a power vacuum if there isn't one.
posted by meta x zen at 5:52 PM on April 7, 2006

(1) If he is in the race, there is a reasonable chance the Dem. might win just because he's not Tom DeLay the Indicted Crook. But if he bows out, a Republican is pretty sure to win the election. So it helps the party, and presumably the party can scratch his back in return.
(2) Maybe, bowing out now makes it easier to convert his campaign fund into a legal defense fund.
(3) Bowing out now triggers a special election, which will probably be won by a Republican. Who will then enter the November race as, technically, an incumbent instead of just running for an open seat.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:52 PM on April 7, 2006

(2) = haha

Point three seems right on... along the lines of Steven's comments. Aren't there two republicans going for his seat? This would be like a primary before a primary.

Again a good point. Thanks Rou
posted by meta x zen at 5:54 PM on April 7, 2006

Another possibility: he believes that with aides starting to strike plea deals, he is going down. Perhaps he wants to work out a plea bargain, perhaps he just feels he's doomed: either way it's in the interest of the Republican party to have him sidelined as soon as possible.
posted by tkolar at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2006

My professor who has written about Connecticut politics quiet a bit said that he believes Delay might be doing what our Governor Rowland did. Resign and we'll take it easy on you...
posted by meta x zen at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2006

The points above are good, but you're all forgetting:

--if he doesn't spend the money in his campaign warchest running a campaign, he can spend it on his lawyers (and himself) - that's 1.3 million reasons to resign before eating up those funds.
posted by jellicle at 6:26 PM on April 7, 2006

Bowing out now doesn't necessarily trigger a special election -- NPR last night mentioned that the Texas governor was undecided about whether to hold one now or wait until November. I think this is more about getting himself out of the national spotlight as fast as possible so the Republicans can focus on the midterms and the Democrats won't have him as a target. The questioner is asking why he's leaving office now and not when his term is up in January, not why he's resigning at all.
posted by incessant at 6:31 PM on April 7, 2006

He had to stay in at least past the primary to legally convert his "war chest" into a legal defense fund.

"By stepping down and withdrawing from his reelection campaign, DeLay can legally shift his massive campaign war chest, an estimated $1.2 million, into his legal defense fund."
posted by jca at 6:50 PM on April 7, 2006

Not that a lot of the above isn't true, but one thing is untrue, and one thing is missing.

Untrue: "No one is talking about why he's resigning mid-term instead of finishing it out."

I think you're reading the wrong news outlets then, because everyone is talking about it.

Missing: One of the biggest things everyone is talking about is impending legal troubles connected to the Abramoff scandal, amongst other things. Libby resigned due to his impending indictment, and it's speculated that there may be legal issues ahead for Delay.
posted by twiggy at 6:55 PM on April 7, 2006

Apologies if any answer that assumes DeLay is under investigation is "partisan," but:

I don't think it's only that he gets to convert his campaign fund for his legal defense. I think it's also that he was facing a more difficult re-election battle than he thought he would in 2002 when he engineered the re-districting in Texas. DeLay willingly gave up some Republican areas from TX-22 (his district) to make neighboring districts more GOP-friendly, so his own district was not a stone-cold GOP lock anymore.

Combine that with his legal problems and he was facing a difficult re-election battle. DeLay told several people that he was bowing out because it would be a "nasty" fight, and that didn't seem to make sense, because he's known for relishing a fight.

But a fight means that the Democrats would pour money into the district in hopes of unseating the reviled DeLay. That, in turn, means he'd have to spend a huge amount of his campaign warchest on actual campaigning, leaving it empty in case he was later indicted and needed it for defense.

It would have been expensive to run for reelection and success was not guaranteed, but right now he's in a window where he can legally "take the money and run." He did the latter.
posted by mdeatherage at 7:29 PM on April 7, 2006

As I understand it, by waiting 'til June, Delay is resigning too late for Perry to hold a special election, which Delay thinks would favor Democratic candidate Lampson; Lampson, as a full-fledged candidate who has been airing ads down there for months, would have the upper hand against a gaggle of Republican hopefuls. Waiting 'til November means that the Republicans can unite around a single candidate and attract big donors to the race.
posted by Bromius at 7:32 PM on April 7, 2006

1. Delay feels that the cloud surrounding him will not go away, and that having him in Congress will be bad for the GOP in general.
2. Delay figures he's only got a 50-50 chance of winning his own seat. He's never had a tough fight for it in the past and is mortified at the prospect of a Democrat filling it.
3. TX Guv Perry can appoint someone else to fill Delay's seat (that person would certainly be Republican), giving that candidate the advantage of incumbency when the regular election rolls around.

The $1.2 million legal-defense fund is an angle I was unaware of, but clearly seems like a consideration.
posted by adamrice at 8:31 PM on April 7, 2006

TX Guv Perry can appoint someone else to fill Delay's seat

No. There is only one way on God's green earth to become a member of the House of Representatives, and that is to be elected to it.

Governors can appoint people to fill out the remainder of a Senate term, but that emphatically does not apply to the House.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:49 PM on April 7, 2006

Governors can appoint replacements for Senators who resign or who die in office, but they cannot appoint replacements for Congressmen. The Constitution doesn't permit it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:52 PM on April 7, 2006

(Xenophobe beat me to it.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:52 PM on April 7, 2006

sorry, my mistake.
posted by adamrice at 9:24 PM on April 7, 2006

Perhaps some GOP administration officials have arranged for alternate employment for him, in return for his resignation.

Standard sort of "you go away now, and stop embarassing us... in return, you're a consultant at this think-tank" sort of deal.

Just a possibility, since that would work out well for all parties involved.
posted by I Love Tacos at 12:39 AM on April 8, 2006

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