Venerable Rep. Ralph Hall (TX-4-R), who at 91 years of age is the oldest member in the history of the House of Representatives, lost his bid for a 19th term last night in the Texas Republican run-off. Hall becomes the first federal incumbent to lose a bid for renomination during this election cycle. Fifty-two other senators and representatives of both parties have been renominated in the early primaries against competition of varying strength.
Former US Attorney John Ratcliffe (R) scored a 53-47 percent victory last night after holding Hall to 46 percent in the primary election. True to form, when an incumbent is forced to a run-off, he or she invariably loses. In this case, because Hall had received endorsements from the losing candidates in the March 4 Texas primary and was drawing renewed respect for his longevity of service, and that he is the last remaining World War II veteran in Congress, many believed he had the opportunity and ability to reverse the normal post-primary electoral trend. But, such was not to be.
As is typical in Texas nominating elections, turnout was extremely low, only 42,139 voters participating. Ratcliffe carried 11 of the 4th District’s 18 counties including Hall’s home base of Rockwall, an entity that he represented for 34 years in the US House and for an additional 10 in the state Senate prior to embarking upon his federal career.
Since the 4th is a safely Republican northeast Texas CD, Ratcliffe will have an easy run in the general election and claim the seat in November. Rep. Hall’s defeat now means there are 46 open House seats in elections this year.
In a run-off election for the opportunity to oppose freshman Rep. Pete Gallego (D), ex-CIA officer Will Hurd easily outpaced former one-term Rep. Quico Canseco (R) to become the official Republican nominee. In a turnout that will likely top only the 15,000 vote mark when all the ballots are tabulated in this district that stretches all the way from northwest San Antonio to the El Paso suburbs, Hurd scored a strong 59-41 percent victory.
From a Republican Party perspective, this was a good result. The party’s chances of toppling Rep. Gallego in this swing district are likely stronger with a fresh face than the member who the new Democratic congressman unseated in 2012. Expect this district to move up the national Republican target list with Hurd, a former Texas A&M student body president, as the official nominee.
In southeast Texas, for the safe Republican seat that Rep. Steve Stockman (R) abandoned for an unsuccessful run against Sen. John Cornyn (R), dentist Brian Babin, an unsuccessful congressional candidate in both 1996 and 1998, won the 36th District run-off with a 58-42 percent victory over Harris County businessman Ben Streusand. The latter is also a former unsuccessful congressional candidate.
Dr. Babin carried eight of the district’s nine counties, losing the seat’s largest single population center (Harris County) but winning easily in every other part of the district. Because this seat is so Republican, Babin has virtually won his election to the House. He is the prohibitive favorite in November against Democrat Michael Cole, a former Libertarian Party nominee. Count on seeing Babin as a member of the 114th Congress.
In 2012, upstart U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz (R) shocked the political world with a huge victory over the state’s sitting lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst (R). After his senatorial loss, Dewhurst made it clearly known that he would seek re-election to a fourth term for the state’s powerful lieutenant governor’s office.
But, he too would suffer a crushing defeat as an incumbent being forced into a run-off, culminating with a big loss last night. The writing was on the wall in March when state senator and radio talk show host Dan Patrick placed first with 41 percent of the vote, compared with incumbent Dewhurst’s 28 percent.
The early projected outcome was so obvious that many people questioned whether Dewhurst would even carry through to contest the run-off, suggesting that he might have simply conceded to Patrick before any votes were cast. Carry through he did, however, and the lieutenant governor found himself with only 34.5 percent of the vote last night. Patrick will now have an easy road into office this November as he becomes a strong favorite against Democrat Leticia Van de Putte, a San Antonio state senator.