I wrote earlier — and disapprovingly — about a suit filed by Texas Democrats to keep Tom DeLay’s name on the ballot.

Well, get this: they won.

The Texas Republican Party must keep Tom DeLay’s name on the November election ballot, even though the former congressman has dropped his re-election bid, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

DeLay, the former House majority leader who resigned from office June 9, won the Republican primary for his district in March but decided against re-election a month later.

If that decision stands — and a Republican appeal is almost a certainty — it would all-but-guarantee that Democrat Nick Lampson will take over DeLay’s seat come November.

The reason DeLay resigned when he did was so he could help handpick his successor — without having to go through that messy piece of intraparty democracy known as a primary. So on one level the Dems have merely foiled one last shady maneuver by the Hammer.

But the extended legal dispute also keeps the GOP from naming a replacement, thus delaying their ability to start campaigning and raising funds. So it’s a strategic move by the Dems as well.

One could argue that this is simply DeLay reaping what he sowed: an emphasis on hardball partisanship, regardless of the cost to the nation. It might be considered poetic justice for him to be beaten into the ground with his own favorite weapon.

But that’s what everyone disliked about DeLay, and Democrats do themselves no favors by emulating him. They need to rise above it and show that they really are different, and that they really do repudiate DeLay and everything he stands for.

So I stand by my earlier position: The Dems should drop the suit and let the Reps name whatever replacement they want. Democracy is not served when a contest is essentially reduced to a one-party race because of legal technicalities. Sugarland voters deserve a choice in November.

Politics Dead man running: DeLay remains on the ballot