Rep. Ralph HallRalph HallGOP fights off primary challengers in deep-red Texas Most diverse Congress in history poised to take power Lawmakers pay tribute to Rep. Ralph Hall MORE (R-Texas), the oldest member in House history, has lost his primary to a conservative challenger.
Hall is the first incumbent to lose a reelection campaign this year. Originally elected as a Democrat in 1980, he'd switched to the GOP in 2004 and hadn't faced a serious challenge since.
Hall, 91, was caught off guard by Ratcliffe, who jumped into the race right before the filing deadline and loaned himself more than $600,000 for the race. The longtime congressman took a while to kick his campaign into gear, raising and spending very little for the first round of voting in March, when Ratcliffe and other challengers held him to 45 percent of the vote.
Ratcliffe ran a disciplined campaign focused on generational change. He also sought to position himself to Hall's right — and received a boost on that front as the runoff began, when he received endorsements from the conservative Club for Growth, Madison Project and Senate Conservatives Fund.
Hall finally seemed to be running a full-speed campaign at the end, helped by a series of fundraisers from other members of the Texas delegation and GOP leadership. He also racked up endorsements from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Rep. Michele BachmannMichele BachmannEx-rep admires furs amid PETA inaugural gala Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog Will Trump back women’s museum? MORE (R-Minn.). He also promised this would be his final term in Congress. But it wasn't enough.
"Since joining the Navy, my life has been dedicated to public service." Hall said in a statement. "Other than being a husband, father and grandfather, serving the people of East Texas has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I congratulate my opponent on a hard fought campaign, and I will continue to keep him and his family in my prayers. I look forward to getting back to work and using the rest of my time in Congress fighting for the priorities and values of those I represent."
With the longtime incumbent's loss, the 114th Congress will be absent any World War II veterans.
Ratcliffe is all but guaranteed a spot in Congress as the northeast Texas district is overwhelmingly Republican.
"I entered this race because I want a better path for America than the one that we're on right now. Tonight, the voters of this district confirmed what I’ve been hearing on the campaign trail for the last six months," Ratcliffe said in a statement. "I thank Congressman Hall for serving us admirably, and wish him the best moving forward. I look forward to representing the 4th District of Texas in U.S. House of Representatives and fighting for the conservative values which I've defended throughout my career."
Conservative groups cheered his win.
"In Congress, John will be a fighter for Texas taxpayers and a champion for economic liberty. John Ratcliffe is a constitutional conservative and we can't wait to see him elected in November," said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.
"We congratulate John Ratcliffe on his victory tonight. He won this race because he never stopped fighting for conservative principles," said Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins. "John Ratcliffe will go to Washington and fight to stop wasteful spending, balance the budget, and repeal ObamaCare."
Ratcliffe's campaign was focused more on framing him as a next generation conservative, and outside groups ran ads knocking Hall for his age. But he may be a thorn in the side of GOP leaders. Ratcliffe has repeatedly criticized how Congress is run, and told The Hill earlier this year that he was unlikely to support House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLast Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions An anti-government ideologue like Mulvaney shouldn't run OMB MORE (R-Ohio) if he runs for another term.
This post was last updated at 11:25 p.m.