Video: DeLay's hometown abuzz

msnbc.com
updated 9/30/2005 7:51:33 PM ET 2005-09-30T23:51:33

The Beltway has been abuzz after the indictment of House majority leader Tom DeLay.  But the opinions that matter the most are found in Sugar Land, Texas — DeLay's home district.

Tom DeLay certainly has supporters here, but his district has been changing. The political equation may be changing as well in the wake of DeLay's indictment. 

At Vasos Barbecue, Tom DeLay's favorite home district restaurant, the regulars here were quick to rush to DeLay's defense. 

"I feel like that it's mostly just a witch-hunt.  Democrats have been after him, trying to get him for several years, "Randy Swafford, resident of Sugar Land.  "It doesn't take much to get an indictment."

The theme: This is all just a Democratic conspiracy, as DeLay said himself on Hardball .

But Erin Lynch, a constituent of Tom DeLay's, served for 18 months on a grand jury just like the one that indicted him.  She says panel members in Texas weigh the evidence carefully. 

 
"Well, we are always talking about the cases.  Even overnight, we would think about it and come back the next day and talk about how this should have gone and that should have gone," says native Erin Lynch.

A few weeks ago, most lawyers familiar with the campaign money laundering investigation thought it was going away.  The prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, had said he did not expect to indict the House majority leader.

Lawyers across Texas are buzzing with speculation about whether Earle recently convinced a reluctant witness to flip and testify for the state. 

DeLay certainly has his enemies.  Hometown critics say they've witnessed the Congressman's tactics firsthand. 

Sugar Land local Todd Partridge says the House majority leader uses "lies and rumors" to "destroy his fellow competitors, his fellow politicians." 

Tom DeLay won his election here by 10 points, but it was the smallest margin in years.  His district has been changing.  This area is turn into a progressive commuter suburb of Houston.  Just steps away from the new Sugar Land Town Hall, there's the liberal Ben & Jerry's and the latte-drinking crowd at Starbucks.  
            
For the working-class residents here, the stories about DeLay's extensive foreign trips and links to corporate fat-cats are all taking a toll. 

"He's associating himself with all the, you know, upper class and he's just out of touch, I think," says Michael Luna, resident of Sugar Land.

Locals say it's too early to tell how the indictment will play out for Tom DeLay here in his home district.  But a lot of people seem to be watching very carefully. 

Watch 'Hardball' each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC. 

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