Facing a crowded field of six candidates, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall and former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe finished an easy 1-2 in the Republican primary balloting for the 4th Congressional District Tuesday, setting the stage for the first runoff election the 4th CD has seen in more than three decades. Hall fell four points shy of the 50 percent threshold that would have precluded the runoff and all but ensured an 18th term in the House for the 90-year-old. The former U.S. Attorney Ratcliffe utilized a hefty chunk of his personal fortune and a seemingly well-oiled campaign machine to secure 29 percent of the vote.
“I was really optimistic all along that we could force a historic runoff and we did,” said Ratcliffe by phone Tuesday night. “The numbers largely tracked what we were hoping for, but honestly a little bit better than even we thought we were going to do.”
Hall’s campaign adviser Ed Valentine said the Congressman’s campaign, too, was happy with their performance.
“We’re very pleased, you know, with five challengers … to get nearly 50 percent of the vote is, I think, a pretty strong showing,” said Valentine, who explained that a lighter schedule at the Capitol in the coming months should aid Hall’s campaigning. “He’s been up there for the last two months and just back on weekends. Hopefully he’ll be back in the district and meeting people and running a typical Ralph Hall-type of campaign.”
Ratcliffe’s strong performance fulfilled the prognostications of many political observers who predicted Hall would face a slog when the well-connected Ratcliffe entered the race in early December. Ratcliffe vowed early on in his campaign to eclipse all other candidates in spending and he appeared likely to achieve that goal after personally loaning his campaign $400,000 to supplement $141,000 in donations, according to FEC data reported as of Feb. 12. By contrast, Hall raised $166,000 from individuals, $189,000 from committees and loaned himself $30,000 for campaign expenditures.
Both campaigns pointed to money as being pivotal in Tuesday’s decision, as well as going forward.
“You look at this race, and I don’t know what the final numbers are, but I suspect that we’ve probably been outspent 4- or 5-to-1 and still got 50 percent of the vote,” said Valentine. “(Ratcliffe) has done 13 mailers. He’s been up on radio and television. They’ve had a lot of paid operatives around.”
Ratcliffe countered that his fundraising expenditures are just the cost of doing business when seeking to dethrone a sitting representative.
“We had hundreds of Texans invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in our campaign, and of course I invested in myself along with them. And that will continue to be the case,” explained Ratcliffe. “We’re very much on course for what we believed it was going to take to force a run-off, and we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to see this through all the way to a victory in the run-offs in May.”
Among the also-rans Tuesday, Tea Party darling Lou Gigliotti placed third with 16 percent of the vote, less than the 21 percent he took while running for the seat in 2012 but a better showing than in 2010, when he garnered only 1.5 percent. Former Fate City Councilor John Stacy brought in 3.8 percent of the electorate, Van Alstyne engineer Brent Lawson won 3.1 percent, and Army vet Tony Arterburn, who left the campaign trail for a long stretch to tend to sick kin, took only 1.9 percent.
In Grayson County, the candidates performed close to their district-wide splits, with Hall taking 44 percent, Ratcliffe 29 percent, Gigliotti 17.5 percent, Lawson 4.3 percent, Stacy 3.3 percent and Arterburn 1.6 percent.
Hall and Ratcliffe will vie for the Republican nomination — and the probable Congressional seat that comes with it — on May 5.