SUGAR LAND, Texas – Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace withdrew Monday as a Republican write-in candidate for former House Majority leader Tom DeLay’s vacant seat.
The decision leaves the Texas GOP united behind one write-in candidate, Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, whom the party endorsed last week and pledged organizational and financial support.
Wallace had indicated he would stay in the race despite the party’s snub.
“What I am choosing to do at this time is unite with the Republican Party behind one candidate,” Wallace told a news conference, standing next to his wife, Kathy, and two daughters. “There is no way that two write-in candidates could win. It would be very difficult and divisive to the Republican Party.”
Wallace, mayor of the Houston suburb that was DeLay’s hometown, said the Republican Party did not pressure him to withdraw.
“I’m very pleased that Mayor Wallace has looked into this carefully and he has made the right decision to come and be a team player and now we are going to go forward and win in November,” Sekula-Gibbs said.
Wallace’s decision is the latest maneuver in what has become a complicated campaign.
DeLay won the GOP primary in March but resigned from Congress in June as he faced increasing scrutiny over ethical troubles, including state money laundering charges and fallout from his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The state Republican Party declared DeLay ineligible, setting up a plan for party insiders to choose a replacement candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson, a former congressman, in the fall.
But Democrats sued and won, with federal appellate courts ruling that DeLay could only withdraw from the race and that any Republicans wishing to replace him would have to mount write-in campaigns.
Sekula-Gibbs, a dermatologist who is serving her third and final term on city council, faces a tough campaign against Lampson, who has been running steadily and has raised about $2 million while Republicans fought the ballot issue in court.
Democrats need 15 seats to gain the House majority and the lack of a Republican candidate has Democrats thinking they could pick up one of those in Texas.
“It was a difficult decision anybody would have to go through. In the final analysis, this is a decision about having a conservative voice in Washington. I look forward to working with (Sekula-Gibbs’) campaign as we take this fight to the liberal Nick Lampson,” Wallace said.
The national GOP was willing to commit $3 million for the race, but only if there was one Republican write-in candidate, he said.
“It is very important to recognize that we have to have substantial support to win. But money is not enough. The voters are the ones who make or break an election,” Sekula-Gibbs said.
The national Democratic Party also has targeted the race for a seat that for 22 years was safely DeLay’s. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticized her for accepting a pay raise in 2004 when Houston faced a budget shortfall.
Houston City Council positions are part-time jobs.
Sekula-Gibbs blamed Democrats for not giving voters a choice by blocking efforts to have a GOP candidate on the ballot.
“But today one more of those roadblocks has been removed and we have a Republican write-in candidate,” said Sekula-Gibbs.
Only four men have been elected to Congress as write-in candidates.
Libertarian Bob Smither also is running. Retired Air Force Maj. Don Richardson of Houston, a Republican, has also filed the paperwork needed to run as a write-in candidate.