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After court loss, GOP may lose DeLay's House seat

Republicans aim for a write-in campaign to replace the indicted Texas congressman, but it's an uphill battle.

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Every time Texan Brett Koppe steps into a voting booth, he does the same thing: pull a straight GOP ticket.

But this year's congressional race here in southeast Texas is a touch more confusing. The incumbent, embattled former House majority leader Tom DeLay, says he's not running. The courts say the GOP can't replace him on the ballot.

That leaves Mr. Koppe and his fellow Republicans in a quandary. Should they vote for the libertarian candidate or (gasp) Nick Lampson, the Democratic nominee?

"The alternative is destructive," says Koppe.

So GOP leaders in District 22 are gearing up for a massive write-in campaign in support of one of the candidates they wanted to replace Mr. DeLay with in the first place. There's just one problem.

Winning an election with a write-in candidate is an extreme long shot, political scientists say.

"The last time a write-in candidate won in a high-profile election was Strom Thurmond in the early 1950s," says Calvin Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

That suggests that District 22, which has sent a Republican to Congress in every election since 1978, could go Democratic, analysts say, especially since the US Supreme Court declined to intervene early this week.

"I think the seat goes to Lampson as a result of this court decision," Professor Jillson says.

The high court was the GOP's last shot at getting an alternate on the ballot – and avoiding the write-in option – after the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DeLay's name could not be replaced.

DeLay won the Republican nomination in the March primary after handily fending off three challengers, but withdrew from the race in April because he said he didn't want his criminal indictment in Texas on campaign money-laundering charges to interfere with the election.

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