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Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay stepping down to permit another Republican to run

WASHINGTON (BP)–Rep. Tom DeLay has announced he will leave the U.S. House of Representatives in order to give another Republican an opportunity to win his seat in November’s election.

The Texas congressman, a Southern Baptist, served as the House’s majority whip and majority leader for 11 years combined, helping bring about the passage of numerous bills supported by pro-family advocates and other conservatives after Republicans gained the majority in the 1994 elections.

A grand jury indictment in his home state, as well as convictions of former aides on corruption charges, had made it clear in recent months that his race for re-election would be a controversial and hotly contested one.

In saying he planned to step down by mid-June, DeLay said in a statement on his congressional website he would “refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign. The voters of the 22nd District of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about and that affect their lives every day, and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me.”

DeLay stepped down as majority leader after a Travis County grand jury indicted him in September for conspiring to violate a Texas ban on the use of corporate money by political candidates. On March 31, Tony Rudy, DeLay’s former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to commit fraud while working for the Texas congressman. Michael Scanlon, who resigned as DeLay’s press secretary in 2000 to join a Washington, D.C., law firm, pleaded guilty in November of attempting to bribe a member of Congress after leaving the House.

In announcing his plans to step down, DeLay continued to deny any wrongdoing. “I have no fear whatsoever about any investigation into me or my personal or professional activities,” he said.

DeLay said he plans to move to his home in Virginia and continue to promote conservative causes and the Republican Party as a private citizen. He said he looks “forward with both joy and curiosity to the future God holds for me.”

DeLay is a member of Houston’s Second Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in the SBC.

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois said he was sorry DeLay would be leaving his seat. “Because of his efforts, we have restored our national defense, strengthened the economy, created jobs for our workers and improved the lives of thousands of American families,” Hastert said.

Pro-family leader Gary Bauer, president of American Values, described DeLay as a “champion of conservative causes who once again put his party first.”

Karen Finney, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said DeLay’s decision “is just the beginning of the reckoning of the Republican culture of corruption that has gripped Washington for too long.”

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