A federal appeals court panel on Thursday refused to let Texas Republicans replace Tom DeLay's name on the November congressional ballot.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who said in July that DeLay name had to stay on the ballot even though he quit from Congress and moved to Virginia.
DeLay won a March primary before resigning from Congress on June 9. He is awaiting trial in Texas state court on money laundering and conspiracy charges alleging that illegal corporate cash helped pay for legislative campaigns in 2002.
Republicans want to pick another nominee to face Democrat Nick Lampson in November. Democrats sued to keep DeLay on the ballot. Keeping him on the ballot gives them the opportunity to make the indicted former House majority leader their symbol for claims that the Republicans are corrupt.
Thursday's ruling said that GOP state chairwoman Tina Benkiser acted unconstitutionally when she tried to remove DeLay as the party nominee because he lived in Virginia. Democrats had noted that DeLay's wife, Christine, still lives in the DeLays' house in Sugar Land, just outside Houston.
The U.S. Constitution says that anyone who lives in the state on the day of the election is qualified to run for Congress, the 5th Circuit said.
"Proof of DeLay's present residency may suggest where he will be in the future; however, it does not put the matter beyond dispute or question," the opinion said.