Texas Republican leaders, unable to replace former Rep. Tom DeLay’s name on the November ballot, sounded confident about the party’s chances of holding onto his congressional seat after they voted to support the write-in campaign of a Houston city councilwoman.

Party precinct chairmen from DeLay’s 22nd Congressional District met Thursday night and chose Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a dermatologist serving her third term on the city council, as the favored Republican candidate.

DeLay, dogged by allegations of money laundering, resigned from Congress a few months after winning the Republican primary. The party wanted to replace him on the Nov. 7 ballot, but the courts ruled against it, leaving the GOP leadership scrambling to find a write-in candidate who could win.

The party faces a tough race against Democrat Nick Lampson, a former congressman. Libertarian Bob Smither also is running.

“Tonight we start the grassroots Republican campaign that this district is well known for,” Sekula-Gibbs said. “It is a district that has over 60 percent Republicans and we will turn them out.”

Sekula-Gibbs said Friday that the war on terrorism will be a focus of her campaign.

“I have heard from the base that it is critical we support the war on terror and we protect our country from acts of violence against our citizens,” she said. “So supporting the president’s war on terror is extremely important to me.”

Sekula-Gibbs said she also supports limited government, fair taxation and defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

State GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser said Sekula-Gibbs was selected by a clear majority of the precinct chairmen who attended the gathering Thursday in Pearland, though she said she did not have a breakdown of the vote.

“We will start making the calls, working the precincts, licking the envelopes and running a hard grassroots campaign so the voters really do have an opportunity to have someone who shares their values in Washington, D.C.,” Benkiser said.

DeLay also attended the close-door meeting and spoke to the group about his future and the direction of the district. He did not speak to reporters after the meeting.

In addition to Sekula-Gibbs, candidates vying for the GOP’s support included David Wallace, mayor of Sugar Land, and Houston businessman Tim Turner.

Turner said he was disappointed but would support Sekula-Gibbs.

Wallace has already filed as a write-in candidate. He has indicated he would probably stay in the race even if he didn’t get the party’s support, but Sekula-Gibbs said she hoped he will reconsider.

“It is my fervent hope that Mr. Wallace will look into his soul and decide that it’s in the best interest of the Republican Party to have one candidate and that is still his choice,” she said.

Wallace did not immediately return calls for comment.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press