Texas Runoff: What to Watch

John Ratcliffe, who is running for Congress against Rep. Ralph Hall, works with campaign manager Daniel Kroese (far right) from his two-room campaign headquarters inside an office building in Heath, Texas on March 19, 2014.

Photograph by Kim Leeson/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

John Ratcliffe, who is running for Congress against Rep. Ralph Hall, works with campaign manager Daniel Kroese (far right) from his two-room campaign headquarters inside an office building in Heath, Texas on March 19, 2014.

Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, the House’s oldest member in history, may become its first member this year defeated for re-election.

Hall, 91, is in danger of losing his seat in a Republican primary runoff today to John Ratcliffe, a wealthy former prosecutor who held Hall under a majority of the vote in the March 4 primary.

Hall led Ratcliffe by 45 to 29 percent in that first-round vote in the 4th District, a strongly Republican area that runs from suburbs of Dallas east along the Oklahoma border to Arkansas and Louisiana. That a majority of Republican primary voters voted against Hall, a 33-year House veteran who became a county judge more than six decades ago, was a warning sign for a well-known and decades-long politically dominant figure. He’s unlikely to improve much on that first-round percentage.

There aren’t major ideological differences in the race. Two groups promoting limited government, the Club for Growth and the Madison Project, are backing Ratcliffe. The Club’s endorsement statement in March praised Ratcliffe without mentioning Hall, who had a 74 percent rating with the group for his 2013 voting record. The American Conservative Union gave Hall an 88 percent rating last year.

Ratcliffe’s most recent ad attacks Hall for votes to raise the federal borrowing limit while also mentioning the incumbent’s age. “At age 91, it’s just time,” a narrator says in the spot. Here’s Politifact on Hall’s record on debt-limit votes.

Hall has said he’s in good health and will seek one last term. Hall and Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who’s retiring this year, are the only two World War II veterans left in Congress.

Political action committees and members of Congress have ramped up their donations to Hall in the waning days of the runoff. Ratcliffe has put more than $685,000 of his personal funds into the race, federal filings show.

Follow the results using this Political Capital chart of the first-round March primary vote by county. Hall needs to run ahead of his March showing by about five percentage points on average.


Two other Republican runoffs are also worth watching today.

In the 23rd District, an area bigger than Georgia that links San Antonio to El Paso, ex-Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco and former CIA officer Will Hurd are vying to oppose Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego. Hurd led Canseco by 41 percent to 40 percent in the first round.

This is a rematch of a 2010 Republican runoff that Canseco won en route to winning the seat that November. Gallego unseated Canseco in the 2012 election.

Gallego is among nine Democrats from districts that President Barack Obama didn’t win in the 2012 election. Republican challenger Mitt Romney carried the 23rd by 3 percentage points, the only Texas district where Obama or Romney’s margin of victory was smaller than 15 percentage points. Gallego has opposed Democratic leaders and sided with Republicans on occasion. He was among 27 Democrats who voted in March for a bill that would have delayed by one year the penalties for failing to comply with the individual health-care insurance mandate.

In the 36th District, dentist Brian Babin or businessman Ben Streusand will be the next House member in a staunchly Republican area that runs from Houston to the Louisiana border. Rep. Steve Stockman left open the district to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. Babin, a former small-town mayor, led Streusand by 33 percent to 23 percent in the March primary, which included 10 other Republicans.

Reps. Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith and Mike Conaway are among members of the Texas delegation who’ve made political contributions to Babin’s campaign, which received an endorsement from the Houston Chronicle’s editorial page. The American Dental Association is backing Babin with an independent expenditure campaign. Streusand has provided his campaign more than $1.2 million in personal funds.

Following are maps of the 4th, 23rd and 36th Districts, courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council:






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