Rep. Ralph Hall Loses Primary Runoff

Rep. Ralph Hall Loses Primary Runoff

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), former chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee and ardent NASA supporter, lost his Republican primary runoff election to Tea Party challenger John Ratcliffe yesterday (May 27).  The oldest Member of the House of Representatives at 91, Hall has been in Congress since 1980 and had said that if he won, it would be his last term in office.  Now, he will lose his seat at the end of this year.

Originally a Democrat, Hall switched to the Republican party early in fellow Texas Republican George W. Bush’s presidential term.  Hall won election as a Republican for the first time in 2004.  He served as chairman of the House SS&T committee in the 112th Congress (2011-2012) after four years of serving as the top Republican on the committee when Democrats controlled the House.  He is “chairman emeritus” of the committee today.  (Fellow Texan Lamar Smith is the current chairman.)

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX)
Photo credit:  Rep. Hall’s website

Ratclliffe is about half Hall’s age and ran a campaign arguing that Hall had been in office long enough and it was time for a change.   He garnered 29 percent of the vote compared to 45 percent for Hall in a six-way primary contest in March.  Since Hall did not receive a majority of the votes, a runoff was required.  That is the election held yesterday where Ratcliffe won 52.8 percent versus 47.2 percent for Hall.

Hall is in his 17th term representing the 4th congressional district of Texas in a northeastern corner of the state and was taken by surprise by Ratcliffe’s popularity in the March contest.  Both men are strong conservatives and Hall worked hard between March and the runoff to raise funds and support from influential conservatives around the country as well as in Texas, but Ratcliffe had the support of groups like the Club for Growth.

Ratcliffe, 48, is a former U.S. attorney and former Mayor of Heath, TX.  During the campaign he criticized Hall’s long service in the House and promised to serve no more than eight years.  Setting term limits for members of the House and Senate was one of his campaign pledges.

Hall’s unwavering support for NASA, especially the human spaceflight program, will certainly be missed by space program advocates.  Ratcliffe’s campaign website does not include space or science among his issues.  NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) is in Texas, but far from the 4th congressional district.  JSC is in the southern part of the state between Houston and Galveston.  The 4th district is northeast of Dallas, where Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana meet.

No Democrats are seeking election to the House in the 4th district, so Ratcliffe’s election in November is assured.

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