POLITICS: PennAve

Ralph Hall, oldest member of Congress, loses run-off to GOP challenger

By |
Politics,Congress,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Ralph Hall

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, at 91 the oldest member in the history of the House, hoped to serve just one more term, he told a group of his constituents late last year.

It would have been Hall's 18th term -- but, Tuesday, Hall fell short by a narrow margin in a Republican primary run-off against John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. Attorney who received support from Tea Party groups.

During the Republican primary, much of the political discourse focused on Hall's age -- raising the question, through nudging implication, as to whether he would be fit to continue to serve in Congress.

Ratcliffe's campaign touted his "energy" in one of its ads. Hall parried, in an ad of his own, "You battle Nancy Pelosi as much as I have, you're bound to get a few wrinkles."

Hall has, indeed, been a thorn in the side of Democrats during his time in Congress — perhaps most of all when he was himself among the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, until he switched parties to become a Republican in 2004.

"I have voted with the Republicans most of the time," Hall reasoned afterward, adding that he wished to support the president's party during a time of war. The U.S., under President George W. Bush, was at the time militarily engaged in Iraq.

Indeed, a 1989 CQ profile of Hall noted, "Hall's conservative voting record is not the kind the Democratic leadership generally appreciates."

Even outside of the Capitol, Hall did not bow to the party's framework. He skipped the Democratic convention in 1984 because, he said, he "didn't want to elbow some gay guy out of the way to get to a committee meeting."

Politically, Hall had space to be blunt: His most perilous congressional race was his first, in 1980, when he narrowly won the Democratic primary. Until Tuesday, that is — when, this time, Hall was narrowly on the losing end.

But if he'd doubted he'd win an 18th term, Hall hadn't let it show.

"Make no mistake," he said in December, according to an account in a local newspaper. "I plan on winning this election.”

This story was first published at 10:43 p.m. on May 27.

View article comments Leave a comment