Texas 22: Two Scenarios Provide Different Prospects

July 12, 2006 · 12:01 AM EDT

The recent news in Texas 22 doesn’t change the outlook for the seat in November…yet.

With former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on the ballot, the race would immediately move to at least a toss-up race, if not closer to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) in the lean takeover category. Ney is in all sorts of trouble, but hasn’t been charged with a crime. DeLay has been indicted and his underwhelming primary showing indicates some problems within his electoral base.

Without Tom DeLay on the ballot, it’s an open seat race in a district that went for President Bush 64% to 35% in the 2004 presidential election. As much as Democrats don’t want it to be so, we learned from the special election in California 50 that it is very difficult to transfer the sins of a former member of Congress to another candidate. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) was incarcerated and Republican Brian Bilbray still won. An open seat race in Texas 22, at a minimum, leans Republican, and open seats like Illinois 6, Minnesota 6, Wisconsin 8, and even Nevada 2 all appear to be better Demcoratic takeover opportunities.

Republicans are appealing the court’s decision in an effort to make the latter scenario a reality. The drawn out legal battle is not ideal for Republicans, but it doesn’t change the partisanship of the district. Many voters are not engaged in the race right now anyway, but if the legal fight spills over past Labor Day, then Republicans should be more concerned.

Texas 22 is not a must-win for Democrats on their roadmap to a majority, but every seat helps. And for many Democrats, defeating Tom DeLay, while he is on the ballot, would simply be a dream come true.

This item first appeared on Political Wire on July 10, 2006.