DOVER, Del. (CN) - The Delaware Republican Party can replace a state Senate candidate who was charged with sexually abusing a minor, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled.
The state Supreme Court affirmed a chancellor's ruling that allows former Georgetown Mayor Brian Pettyjohn to replace Tea Party Republican Eric Bodenweiser on the ballot.
Bodenweiser announced on Oct. 12 last year that he was suspending his 2012 campaign, citing personal and family reasons.
Pettyjohn and Sussex County Republicans sued the Delaware Department of Elections after its commissioner, Elaine Manlove, refused to substitute Pettyjohn for Bodenweiser on the ballot.
Manlove ruled that "mere withdrawal from the race did not constitute 'physical, mental or other incapacity,'" according to Pettyjohn's complaint in Chancery Court.
But the chancellor ruled that Bodenweiser's 113 felony counts related to sexually abusing a minor constituted practical incapacity.
The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that ruling.
"Bodenweiser's decision to withdraw before the grand jury issued the indictment gave his party, opponents, and the Department of Elections additional notice that he might be incapable of serving," Chief Justice Myron Steele wrote. "In this case, the Republican Party acted as promptly as possible based on the limited information available to it."
Bodenweiser was released on bail and is being monitored by a global positioning system bracelet and must abstain from contact with minors, Steele wrote.
"We hold that, under the statute, the term incapacity includes situations where a candidate would be practically incapable of fulfilling the duties of the office in a minimally adequate way," Steele wrote.
According to the ruling, Section 3306 of Delaware law allows political parties to replace a candidate if a "duly nominated candidate will be unable to serve if elected because of death, physical, mental or other incapacity."
Steele agreed with Sussex County Republicans that Bodenweiser's felony indictment, GPS tracking device and other conditions of his bail constituted "other incapacity," rejecting Commissioner Manlove's argument that practical incapacity does not constitute actual incapacity.
"Bodenweiser's bail conditions would make it impossible for him to meet with his constituents, give speeches, or visit large portions of his district," Steele wrote. "It is hard to conceive of how Bodenweiser could make public appearances without violating his bail conditions."
Bodenweiser faces 39 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and 74 counts of unlawful sexual contact, according to Delaware news reports. He is accused of abusing a boy from 1987 to 1990.
Before his withdrawal, the Tea Party Republican had received an endorsement from former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell.
In an interview with WGMD radio, O'Donnell said it was "tacky" for the county to press charges in "an October surprise."
Bodenweiser, whose name remained on the ballot, defeated his Democratic opponent on Election Night by 9,266 votes to 6,149 in state Senate District 19, according to the state's official website.
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