updated 7/21/2006 9:32:42 PM ET 2006-07-22T01:32:42

Texas Democrats on Friday urged a federal appeals court to uphold a judges’ ruling that former Rep. Tom DeLay must remain on the fall election ballot in the race for his suburban Houston congressional seat.

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Despite DeLay’s efforts to resign and Republicans’ attempts to get a new candidate, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled earlier this month the embattled former House majority leader must stay on the November ballot.

The case is now before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which is scheduled to take it up July 31.

Political parties “are not free to make a mockery of the electoral process” or play “shell games with nominees in order to retain a seat in Congress at any cost,” Democrats said in court briefs.

DeLay, who is awaiting trial on Texas charges of money laundering and conspiracy in a campaign finance case, resigned from Congress on June 9 after he had already won his party’s nomination.

GOP leaders argue that state elections law allows them to replace DeLay on the ballot because he no longer lives in Texas. Party Chairwoman Tina Benkiser declared DeLay ineligible for the ballot and said he had moved to Alexandria, Va. Delay and his wife also have a home in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.

State election law allows a political party to replace a candidate if the candidate dies, becomes medically incapacitated or becomes ineligible for office. If the candidate simply withdraws from the race after winning his or her primary, the name can’t be removed.

DeLay has left open the possibility that he will run for his old seat. He told a Republican audience in Sugar Land and said in a Fox News interview that he would wait and see what the 5th Circuit ruled before deciding.

Democrat Nick Lampson is campaigning for DeLay’s 22nd congressional district seat.

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