Texas governor says DeLay should keep House majority post

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Gov. Rick Perry defended U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on Monday, saying his recent indictments on conspiracy and money laundering charges stem from work by an “overzealous prosecutor.”

“I’m for Tom DeLay. I don’t get confused about what’s going on here,” Perry, a fellow Republican, said after speaking about economic development at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce lunch. “The fact of the matter is- I happen to think that this is an overzealous prosecutor who is working very hard to take a Texan off of the national stage who’s been doing some great and good things for the state of Texas.”

DeLay and other Republicans have accused Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle of partisanship, allegations the Democratic prosecutor has denied.

When Perry said he believed DeLay should remain the House majority leader, the crowd of about 450 people erupted in applause. The felony charges forced DeLay to give up his House leadership post, but he wants his job back.

DeLay, of Sugar Land, turned himself in Thursday at the Sheriff’s Office in Houston and was fingerprinted, photographed and released on $10,000 bail. In a brief court appearance Friday in Austin, his attorney asked the judge to step aside for making campaign donations to Democrats and their liberal allies.

Further proceedings are delayed until a hearing can be held on the congressman’s request for a new judge.

DeLay and two political associates are accused of violating state law banning use of donations for election or defeat of state candidates.

Two grand juries in Austin accused the men of sending $190,000 in corporate money, raised by a Texas group founded by DeLay, to the Republican National Committee in Washington, and having the money routed back to Texas candidates.

The Republican fundraising helped the GOP gain control of the Texas House, and set the stage for the Legislature to adopt a DeLay-engineered congressional district map that put more Texas Republicans in Congress.

DeLay’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has filed a motion to move the trial out of Austin, one of Texas’ most liberal and Democratic cities. DeGuerin has said he hopes the trial is moved to Fort Worth, which is a heavily Republican city.

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