ROCKWALL, Texas (AP) — U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, at 91 the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, was ousted Tuesday in the Texas Republican runoff by a candidate barely half his age.
Backed by powerful national groups with strong tea party ties, 48-year-old former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe was able to paint Hall as too cozy with the GOP establishment after 34 years in office. He forced the incumbent into his first runoff in 17 terms in the House then won that on Tuesday.
Ratcliffe also relied on modern analytics to better target would-be voters, while Hall relied on more traditional techniques like direct mailings and walking cities and towns to chat with voters.
Hall first ran for political office in 1950 and won his seat when Jimmy Carter was president. He was a Democrat until switching parties in 2004.
The only World War II veteran left in Congress seeking re-election, Hall promised that his next term would be his last but said he wanted to remain in office long enough to help the Republicans retake the White House in 2016.
No Democrat is running in the district that stretches from suburban Dallas east to Louisiana and north to Oklahoma — meaning Ratcliffe will be headed to Washington after the November general election.
In the congressman’s hometown of Rockwall — where Hall once had a brush with notorious outlaws Bonnie and Clyde while working in a pharmacy as a boy — his campaign had been bracing for the toughest test of the candidate’s very long political life. At an election party near city hall on Tuesday, a supporter wrote county-by-county results on butcher paper stuck to the wall.
The old-school approach didn’t resonate with all voters.
Anna DiGirolamo, a 19-year-old student at Texas A&M University, was voting for her second time Tuesday at the city hall in Heath, where Ratcliffe was once mayor. She said she researched both candidates by watching some of their commercials on YouTube.