For the first time in 34 years, Texas’ 4th Congressional District will have new representation. In an upset, former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe defeated 17-term Rep. Ralph Hall in a Republican runoff election, capturing nearly 53 percent of the vote. When sworn-in next January, Ratcliffe will become only the fourth man to represent the District in the last century. No Democrat is registered to run in the heavily Republican District.
“I entered this race because I want a better path for America than the one that we’re on right now,” said Ratcliffe Tuesday night after election results became final. “Tonight, the voters of this District confirmed what I’ve been hearing on the campaign trail for the last six months.”
The 91-year-old Hall, the oldest member ever to cast a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, will leave Washington later this year with his record of constituent services fully intact. Locally, Hall was instrumental in several issues involving Lake Texoma, including helping local communities purchase rights to surface water and compelling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to allow the future creation of the Preston Harbour resort community in Denison.
“Congressman Hall has been a phenomenal congressman for the city of Denison and for Grayson County over his term in office; we’ve been lucky to have him,” said Denison Mayor Jared Johnson. “ Specifically, he’s always been very responsive to the needs of the city and to our local businesses when they had concerns about what was going on at the federal level. When I would call upon him, he was always genuine and he would genuinely listen to our issues. I knew that I could count on him to help get the answers that we needed from our federal government.
“But I certainly want to congratulate Mr. Ratcliffe on his victory and I look forward to getting to know him and work with him on matters of great importance to the city of Denison.”
Ratcliffe appeared to ride a wave of Tea Party support to victory Tuesday night, winning 11 of the 18 counties in the District, including big wins in Rockwall and Lamar. The 48-year-old was endorsed by the founder of the North Texas Tea Party, a large Tea Party-affiliated political action committee, and Club for Growth, a D.C.-based advocacy group.
Locally, results were mixed and margins, thin. Ratcliffe won 4,986 of 9,692 votes in Grayson County — 51.4 percent — while Hall earned the support of 52 percent of Fannin County’s 1,719 voters.
“Since joining the Navy, my life has been dedicated to public service,” said Hall Tuesday night. “Other than being a husband, father and grandfather, serving the people of East Texas has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I congratulate my opponent on a hard-fought campaign, and I will continue to keep him and his family in my prayers. I look forward to getting back to work and using the rest of my time in Congress fighting for the priorities and values of those I represent.”
Hall’s defeat marks a seminal moment not only for North Texas, but for the nation as well. The nonagenarian was the last remaining World War II veteran in Congress, having flown fighter planes in the Pacific Theater toward the end of the war.
Tuesday marks the beginning of the end of Hall’s political career, which stretched across five-and-a-half decades. Prior to his election to Congress in 1980, Hall served a dozen years as Rockwall County judge and another 10 in the State Senate. Across those 56 years, Hall lost only one election prior to Tuesday — a failed, 1972 bid for lieutenant governor.
When asked last year to name the political accomplishment of which he was most proud, Hall touched briefly on his recent opposition to the president’s signature health care law before focusing on a late-1960s effort he undertook while in Austin. Hall said his legislation evened the playing field between public and private colleges, encouraging investment and enrollment in the latter.
“They were having problems with everybody wanting to go to the University of Texas and Texas A&M. And that was a time when seats were wide open at Baylor, half the room was empty at SMU and other private schools, Austin College and places like that,” said Hall. “It was the toughest bill I ever had to pass ‘cause I had the University of Texas and all those folks fighting me like mad, but I beat them on the floor of the Senate. (Years later, the president of) Baylor had congratulated me and said that at least 35 percent of the youngsters were in school on my program.”
When the calendar flips over to 2015, Ratcliffe will take the reins of the 705,000-person 4th CD, which encompasses the northeast portion of the Lone Star State. It’s a task the Congressman-elect said he will tackle with the same commitment of his predecessor.
“I thank Congressman Hall for serving us admirably, and wish him the best moving forward,” said Ratcliffe. “I look forward to representing the 4th District of Texas in U.S. House of Representatives and fighting for the conservative values which I’ve defended throughout my career.”