Oldest man in Congress defeated for new term

Oldest man in Congress defeated for new term

Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) looks at a monitor as he waits for the subway after a vote at the Capitol January 15, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The House is scheduled to vote on the $50.7 billion Disaster Relief Appropriations for victims of superstorm Sandy later the day. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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by Catalina Carnia

WHAS11.com

Posted on May 28, 2014 at 8:05 AM

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ralph Hall, the oldest man in Congress, lost his bid for re-election on Tuesday night and became the first incumbent defeated in the 2014 elections.

John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, defeated the 91-year-old Hall to win the GOP nomination for a U.S. House seat in Texas.

Hall was seeking his 18th term in Congress and was the only World War II veteran seeking re-election this year. There is no Democrat on the ballot, ensuring Ratcliffe will be elected in November

Ratcliffe, 48, made Hall's 17-term tenure an issue in the race and repeatedly stressed that he would only serve eight years if elected. In a year when conservative bona fides have been the dominant issue in contested GOP primaries, the race in Texas' 4th Congressional District wasn't so much about ideology as it was about Hall himself.

In a statement, Hall congratulated Ratcliffe on his win, adding, "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."

Ratcliffe issued a statement thanking Hall for "serving us admirably" and said he was looking forward to "fighting for the conservative values which I've defended throughout my career."

Hall, a former chairman of the House Science Committee, stressed that he was still fit for the job he was first elected to in 1980. Despite his decades of service, Hall was held to 45% of the vote in the March 4 primary and led Ratcliffe, a former mayor of Heath, who had about 29%.

Nationally known Republicans such as Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann endorsed Hall and many of the Texas GOP members of Congress donated campaign funds to the dean of their delegation. Ratcliffe won the support of groups such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and the Club for Growth — all Tea Party allies that have been spending big in congressional primaries.

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas-Austin, said Hall's vulnerability showed in the runoff.

"The fact of his long tenure probably didn't help with a lot of the conservative grass roots," Henson said. "When you look at how the (Texas) delegation rallied around him, that's exactly the kind of 'insider behavior' that can be easily coded as something negative by opponents."

Hall, a Democrat until 2004, is a genial man known for his story telling and constituent services. As a child, he once sold cigarettes to the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.

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