Oldest Congressman's Re-election Bid Fails

Image: Oldest Congressman's Re-election Bid Fails

Tuesday, 27 May 2014 11:08 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Texas Republican Rep. Ralph Hall's 34 years in office are coming to an end.

The 91-year-old lawmaker, the oldest ever to serve in the House of Representatives, had vowed to make an 18th two-year term his last – but he won't get that chance, losing a bruising Republican primary runoff Tuesday to challenger John Ratcliffe, 48.

With all results in, the former federal prosecutor with powerful tea party backing was ahead 53 percent to Hall's 47 percent in Texas' 4th Congressional District.

Hall's loss is the first by a House member seeking re-election, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Hall got his start in politics in 1950 as a county judge after serving in World War II as a Navy pilot. He was first elected to Congress in 1980.

He told the Morning News he'd been working "day and night to make it go my way . . . It's all I got. I like what I'm doing and I want to keep on doing it."

He had the thumbs-up from some well-known politicians and colleagues — including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul.

But Ratcliffe mounted a formidable challenge, getting "people to break the habit of just looking for the name Hall and voting out of habit," as he described it to the Morning News.

He was helped by the support of powerful national conservative groups with strong tea party ties, including the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.

Still, Hall saw it as a battle of the ages.

"He's running against my birth certificate," he said of Ratcliffe, though in a campaign ad Hall proudly pointed to his wrinkles as proof he'd fought the good fight, grinning: "By gosh, I've got room for a few more wrinkles."

Ratcliffe had repeatedly denied making age an issue, saying Hall had gotten too cozy with the GOP establishment after 34 years in office, but conceding, however, that some voters "specifically cite his age."

"I think it's fair to consider that," he said. "They're raising it as a reason."

Hall is one of just two World War II veterans remaining in Congress; the other, Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, elected in 1955, is three years younger and isn't seeking re-election.

There’s no Democrat running in District 4, which stretches from suburban Dallas to the Louisiana and Oklahoma borders and features an airport, expressway and man-made lake project named after Hall.

Also on Tuesday, in the GOP runoff to face incumbent Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in Texas' 23rd Congressional District, Francisco "Quico" Canseco, who defeated former CIA agent Will Hurd in 2010 to win a single term, lost in a rare rematch.

With 94 percent of the precincts reporting, Hurd had 59 percent of the vote to Canseco’s 41 percent.

In this year's match, both struggled in fundraising over the course of the campaign, and national Republican groups paid little attention. The district covers the remote areas between San Antonio and El Paso.

In a little-talked-about runoff for the GOP nomination in the 36th District to succeed Rep. Steve Stockman, former Woodville Mayor Brian Babin had 60 percent of the vote to businessman Ben Streusand's 40 percent, with two-thirds of the precincts counted.

The district includes Houston's suburban regions and extends into rural southeast Texas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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