Monday, April 18, 2005

DeLay's Constituents Finally Fed Up

From the NYT today. Local constituents are growing weary of DeLay's will to power at any cost and his blatant corruption. People who live in Sugar Land are admittedly conservative but they do possess integrity, unlike the man they voted to represent them. They are finally getting it. Lawmakers in Austin, the State's capitol, are fed up, too. It's about time, dudes. Some of us have been on to DeLay for years..........

April 17, 2005

In DeLay's Home District, Rumblings of Discontent Surface

SUGAR LAND, Tex., April 16 - Patricia Baig, a substitute teacher with a comfortable inheritance, paid $2,776 this week to call for Representative Tom DeLay's resignation.

Ms. Baig, 57 - who identifies herself as a fellow Republican of Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, and is one of his constituents - took out a full-page advertisement on Wednesday in the 62,000 copies of the weekly free Fort Bend Southwest Sun. It urged demonstrators "who want ethical reform" to rally against Mr. DeLay's speech Saturday night to the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, "to protest the actions of Representative DeLay and ask for his resignation," while adding her gun-owner's caveat: "This is NOT a protest of the N.R.A.!"

The Texas fallout from Mr. DeLay's citations for ethical lapses and the investigations of political fund-raisers and lobbyists close to him has been hard to gauge, but there are signs of restiveness here in his hometown, named for the historic plantation and defunct Imperial Sugar refinery that now beckons developers to this thriving Houston suburb of 64,000 people.

Another Republican, who runs the other weekly county paper, has also been openly hostile to Mr. DeLay, and a poll two weeks ago for The Houston Chronicle found nearly 40 percent of 501 voters saying that their opinion of Mr. DeLay had declined since last year, with 11 percent saying their opinion of him had improved. His Democratic opponent from 2004 has already declared a rematch next year, and Mr. DeLay could even have a primary opponent.

In Austin, a state judge may rule as soon as this week in a lawsuit by five losing Democratic candidates against the treasurer of a political action committee, formed by Mr. DeLay, that the Democrats say improperly funneled corporate money to state races. A criminal investigation is pending.

In addition, some lawmakers in the Texas capital say Mr. DeLay's troubles have subtly affected issues in the state legislature.

Ms. Baig, who signed her advertisement with her maiden name, P. A. Perine, "A Texas Republican for Ethical Reform," at a post office box in neighboring Missouri City, said she often used her maiden name and was not trying to hide.

"Tom DeLay is not representing his district," said Ms. Baig as she buttonholed neighbors on Friday in support of the rally. "Tom DeLay is taking care of Tom DeLay. He has become an embarrassment to his district. It's time for him to go."

Mr. DeLay's spokesman, Dan Allen, said he was not aware of the advertisement and questioned the fairness of The Chronicle's poll. "What's clear," he said, "is that the congressman has been elected and re-elected year after year for two decades because of the work he does serving the voters of the 22nd District."

Eric Thode, the Fort Bend County Republican chairman since 1992 and the former public relations director of Enron, said Mr. DeLay still enjoyed strong support at home. "Democrats can't win the seat," he said. "They can spend anything they want. It's a Republican district."

In a letter to The Southwest Sun that the paper said it planned to publish, Mr. Thode, 39, also questioned whether Ms. Baig was a Republican since, he said, records showed she had not voted in Republican primaries and was not affiliated with a Republican club. He also said that she had not donated to Republican candidates but gave $750 to Mr. DeLay's Democratic opponent, Richard Morrison, last year and that she tried to hide her identity until Channel 11 News tracked her down.

Ms. Baig responded that lots of Republicans do not vote in primaries or join clubs or make contributions.

Darlene Hall, publisher of the weekly, one of a chain of 34 owned by Houston Community Newspapers, said the paper editorially backed Mr. DeLay and ran the advertisement purely to make money.

By 7 p.m. Saturday, about 150 demonstrators had gathered across the street from the Hilton hotel where some 3,000 N.R.A. delegates were meeting to hear Mr. DeLay. "Put the hammer in the slammer," some of the protesters chanted, a reference to the congressman's nickname.

"He's an embarrassment," said David Edwards, 65, of Sugar Land, a mortgage broker who said he was an evangelical Christian and a member of the N.R.A.

Inside the ballroom, Mr. DeLay received a roaring welcome. Many members wore stickers reading, "I'm for N.R.A. and Tom DeLay."

Mr. DeLay said, "I hope the national media saw that."

He devoted the bulk of his speech pledging to work against restrictions on gun ownership. But he urged members not to demonize gun control advocates. "When we disagree, we have a tendency to question the sincerity of our opponents' position and even character," he said.

In addition to Sugar Land, Mr. DeLay's Congressional district - which he had a big hand in redrawing as part of a Republican-driven redistricting that sent Democratic legislators fleeing the state in protest in 2003 - sprawls over the southwest Houston suburbs and the NASA area of Clear Lake, which have grown solidly Republican over the years.

But with some Republican voters siphoned off to create new districts that added to the Republican majorities in both the Texas Legislature and Congress last year, and perhaps because of Mr. DeLay's slippage as well, he garnered 55 percent of the vote last year - 53 percent in Fort Bend County - a dropoff from his share in his original district in previous years and below President Bush's 2004 majority of 57 percent in Fort Bend County.

Mr. Morrison, a lawyer, who came away with 41 percent in a three-way race in which the other candidate was also named Morrison, said he would run again in 2006. Other possible candidates, some Democrats say, include Nick Lampson of Beaumont, a congressman defeated in the redistricting. Some moderate Republicans have also been looking for a primary challenger to Mr. DeLay.

Chris Bell, a one-term Democrat from Houston who also failed to win re-election in a new district last year, said recent accounts of Mr. DeLay's lobbyist-paid foreign trips and payments of more than $500,000 to his wife and daughter for political work since 2001 would alienate voters. "Now there's blood in the water," he said. "The sharks are circling."

Mr. Thode and other Republicans say the trips and payments were legal and common among Democrats as well.

Beverly Carter, a Republican precinct chairwoman and the founder of the 27-year-old Fort Bend Southwest Star, the other county weekly and the only paid circulation paper, came out for Mr. DeLay's Democratic opponent, Mr. Morrison, last year, which earned her a vote of censure by the county Republican organization. She said "Tom and I got crosswise" over a sheriff's race eight years ago when she complained that Mr. DeLay ran a misleading poll suggesting that a former Texas Ranger running for the post had no "local" experience.

Ms. Carter said Mr. DeLay had shortchanged the district. "There were years here we didn't see him," she said, although now that he was under fire, she said, "we've seen a whole heck of a lot more of him."

Mayor David Wallace of Sugar Land said Mr. DeLay had been "extremely helpful to the district" in providing federal grants for transportation improvements, although he acknowledged that the city had to contribute $3 million to the state to attract a needed highway project.

Repercussions are affecting Austin, some lawmakers say. A widely co-sponsored bill to outlaw some of the indirect corporate fund-raising being investigated is bottled up, with the Republican chairwoman of the election committee, Representative Mary Denny, saying she has not decided whether to support it.

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