The first incumbent U.S. representative to lose a renomination bid this year, 91-year-old Texas GOP Rep. Ralph Hall, was defeated Tuesday primarily by his age — but he was also caught up in an anti-establishment wave among state Republicans, political observers say.
Hall's loss to former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent came as Republican voters favored political outsiders over party establishment favorites for lieutenant governor, attorney general, and in numerous legislative seats in the Lone Star State.
Ratcliffe was backed by national conservative groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project. He told Newsmax last month that Hall, the oldest U.S. House member in history, "stayed too long and promised too much."
In contrast to the venerable incumbent, the insurgent Ratcliffe had pledged to serve only four terms and then retire.
Ratcliffe attacked Hall's votes to lift the debt ceiling, against the North American Free Trade Agreement, and for the Obama administration's "Cash for Clunkers" program.
Noting that his overall voting record was very conservative, Hall defended all his votes and said he had spelled out his positions at town meetings throughout Texas' 4th Congressional District before voting.
"I take orders from my district," Hall told Newsmax. "I keep my word and I keep my district."
In weighing in for Hall, national conservative favorites such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former Texas Rep. Ron Paul clearly did not want to see the man who would be the last World War II veteran in Congress end his career in defeat.
"This is Ralph Hall's last mission," Jim Martin, chairman of the 60 Plus Association and the nation's leading proponent of abolishing the estate tax, said before Tuesday's vote. "And we know we'll count on him to be firing away at the death tax in the next session of Congress."
The endorsements out of respect for the past helped Hall wage a hard-fought race that turned out to be close. But they were not enough to hold back voter concerns about his age and what appeared to be a statewide tide against seasoned office-holders that swept Texas on Tuesday.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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