Republicans agreed Thursday to support a Houston city councilwoman as the write-in candidate on the November ballot in place of former House Majority leader Tom DeLay, who resigned from Congress in June amid allegations of money laundering.
The Texas Republican Party decided it should rally behind one write-in candidate after a federal appeals court ruled Delay, who won the March Republican primary election, must remain on the ballot.
Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was selected by a clear majority of the precinct chairmen who attended a gathering in Pearland, said state GOP party chairwoman Tina Benkiser. About 85 of the 150 precinct chairmen invited to the closed-door meeting attended.
“What we did is really have a family meeting to talk about how we go from here,” Benkiser said. “In the end, it was an easy decision.”
Sekula-Gibbs had said she only would run for the seat if the GOP said it would backed her.
‘Tremendous show of support’
“There is now a consensus, a majority and we are going to go forward and win against the Democrats in November,” she said. “I’m honored to have received this support. You can’t exactly call it a nomination but it’s a tremendous show of support.”
In addition to Sekula-Gibbs, write-in candidates vying for the GOP’s support included David Wallace, mayor of Sugar Land, and Houston businessman Tim Turner.
Turner said he was disappointed by Thursday’s vote but would support Sekula-Gibbs.
Wallace has already filed as a write-in candidate. He had previously indicated he would probably stay in the race even if he wasn’t chosen as the write-in candidate.
Wallace did not return a telephone call from The Associated Press late Thursday.
Sekula-Gibbs said she hoped Wallace would reconsider.
“It is my fervent hope that Mr. Wallace will look into his soul and decide that it’s in the best interest of the Republican Party to have one candidate and that is still his choice,” she said.
Gary Gillen, the GOP chairman of DeLay’s home county of Fort Bend, had urged the candidates to boycott the meeting and decide on their own whether to run.
Gillen, in a letter to candidates on Wednesday, called the meeting “a secret exclusionary process” that “makes a mockery of our party, the democratic process and should be avoided at all cost.”
Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie also criticized the Pearland gathering.
“Despite protests from a number of Republicans in Congressional District 22, Republican Party leaders are once again running roughshod over voters fundamental right to select the candidate of their choice,” he said in a statement.
Democrat Nick Lampson has been running steadily for the seat while Republicans fought the ballot issue in court. Libertarian Bob Smither also is running.
DeLay also spoke to the group about his future and the direction of the district, those who attended said. DeLay did not speak to the media after the meeting.
He stepped down as majority leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on money laundering charges alleging he helped funnel illegal corporate money to legislative campaigns in 2002. He gave up his effort to reclaim the leadership job amid questions about his associations with convicted ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and pressure from party colleagues.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, denies all allegations of wrongdoing and has labeled the Texas charges a political witch hunt.