Oldest man in Congress defeated for new term

WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- 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, so Ratcliffe will run unopposed in the fall.

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.

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.

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at 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 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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