Republican Ralph Hall, Oldest House Member, Unseated in GOP Primary

Former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe takes over Hall’s Texas district with the help of conservative outside groups.

Ralph Hall
National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
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Jack Fitzpatrick
May 27, 2014, 6:15 p.m.

Former U.S. At­tor­ney John Ratcliffe beat Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Ral­ph Hall in a primary run­off Tues­day night in Texas, be­com­ing the first Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger to un­seat an in­cum­bent mem­ber of Con­gress this elec­tion year.

The As­so­ci­ated Press called the race for Ratcliffe just after 10 p.m. East­ern time, with Ratcliffe lead­ing Hall 52 per­cent to 48 per­cent in Texas’s 4th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict.

In the ab­sence of ma­jor policy dif­fer­ences, Hall’s age be­came a cent­ral is­sue in the cam­paign. Hall, 91 years old and first elec­ted in 1980, is the old­est mem­ber ever to serve in the House. Ratcliffe rarely poin­ted dir­ectly to Hall’s age, but fre­quently de­scribed him­self as a “new gen­er­a­tion” Re­pub­lic­an who was part of the party’s fu­ture. He also cast Hall as a ca­reer politi­cian and tied him to voters’ dis­ap­point­ment in Con­gress.

“At 91, Ral­ph Hall has served ad­mir­ably,” Ratcliffe said in one TV ad. “But after four dec­ades in Wash­ing­ton, the prob­lems are get­ting worse, not bet­ter.”

Ratcliffe’s own money helped make him the most for­mid­able op­pon­ent of Hall’s ca­reer. He loaned his cam­paign $575,300 of his own money to fin­ance the chal­lenge, and Ratcliffe also be­nefited from hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in spend­ing from groups like the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund, Now or Nev­er PAC, and the Club for Growth, which boos­ted the chal­lenger and cri­tiqued Hall’s long vot­ing re­cord.

Hall, mean­while, had over­whelm­ing sup­port from cur­rent and former mem­bers of Texas’s con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion, in­clud­ing former Rep. Ron Paul. Fel­low Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers helped raise money for Hall with his seat in jeop­ardy over the last few months.

Ratcliffe forced Hall in­to a run­off after the March 4 primary, in which the in­cum­bent fin­ished first but failed to reach the 50 per­cent threshold ne­ces­sary to win the nom­in­a­tion. Hall re­ceived 45 per­cent of the vote in that elec­tion while Ratcliffe re­ceived 29 per­cent, ad­van­cing to the head-to-head match­up over four oth­er Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates.

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