Republican Contenders Eye DeLay's Seat; Party Choice Seen Likely to Win Texas District

Article excerpt

Byline: Hugh Aynesworth, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DALLAS - Within hours of Rep. Tom DeLay's announcement yesterday that he would not seek re-election to Congress, several Republicans began jockeying for position to represent the party and Houston's 22nd District.

Two potential candidates seem to lead at this point: Harris County Judge Robert Echols and Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace. Both are well-known in the district, and both have expressed strong interest in running.

Most political analysts think that whoever gets the nod from the party has an excellent chance to win in November in the Republican-leaning district.

Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, said Mr. Echols would have to be considered the favorite because of his lengthy public career and resulting name recognition.

"You'd have to handicap it in his favor," he said.

Mr. Echols, along with Houston Mayor Bill White, received plaudits for co-managing what was considered a very successful Houston program to assist evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last fall.

Although choosing a candidate for the ballot may be a tough decision for Republicans, Gov. Rick Perry has an even more pressing problem - whether to call a special election to fill Mr. …