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From The Herald Democrat: http://heralddemocrat.com/news/politics/local-politics/five-republicans-aim-dethrone-hall
Posted December 15, 2013 – 12:01am
Five Republicans aim to dethrone HallBy Nate Strauch
The five political hopefuls attempting to unseat Republican Ralph Hall next year in the his bid for an 18th term in the U.S. House of Representatives have something in common besides their gender: each man has an “R” next to his name. Because no Democrat submitted paperwork before the Dec. 9 deadline, only one major-party candidate will appear on the general election ballot, the first time that has happened in the 4th Congressional District since 1990.
Hall won that election 23 years ago as a Democrat. He won the five elections before it and the 11 following. Since winning the seat representing Texas’ 4th District in 1980, Hall has never received less than 58 percent of the vote in a general election and never less than 57 percent in a primary. He’s won as a Democrat and as a Republican.
Brent Lawson, a Van Alstyne engineer who has never before sought public office, is the only Grayson County resident in the race.
“The reason I decided to run is because I didn’t really think the other candidates were focused on the things we really need to be focused on; the issues that we’re facing are more fundamental,” said Lawson. “I think that any of the newcomers are going to have a hard time. But the run-off rules that we have in Texas actually have a lot of people in the race. I was surprised at how many had jumped in.”
Republicans who have jumped-in include Lawson, an everyman with a blue-to-white collar story of business success; Tony Arterburn, Jr., a former bodybuilder and U.S. Army veteran who boasts the best fundraising so far among the challengers; race-car driver Lou Gigliotti, who ran twice previously for the seat; former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, a lawyer with deep financial and political ties to the Bush Administration; and John Stacy, a former city councilman from Hall’s hometown of Fate.
“I guess they waited for me to die, and they gave up and decided to run. I can’t control that,” said Hall. “I guess I’ll just have to outwork ‘em.”
Stacy, 57 years Hall’s junior, said he resigned his Council seat to focus on his congressional bid.
“I see the direction my country is heading in, and I want to be able to look my children in the eye and say ‘I tried to do something about it. And what I did was I knocked on 100,000 doors and tried to convince them to change the direction of the country,’” said Stacy, who will eschew further fundraising in favor of a boots-on-the-ground approach. “My fundraising push is over, and any money I get is just extra stuff I can throw into the field. Everything I want to do, I have the money to do.”
In each of the last eight campaigns, Hall has amassed a war chest exceeding $600,000 and touching $1.15 million in 2004 after his switch from Democrat to Republican.
His challengers often have struggled to gain financial traction. Federal Election Commission records dating to 1996, the earliest year for which data is readily available, show only once has a general election opponent topped 40 percent of Hall’s fundraising. That was 1998, when Tyler physician James Lohmeyer spent nearly $250,000 challenging then-Democrat Hall. Lohmeyer received 41 percent of the vote.
In primary elections, the historical picture is more of the same. Only twice — Steve Clark in 2010 and Gigliotti in 2012 — has a like-party challenger broken six figures of spending. Nine times in his 17 elections, Hall hasn’t even drawn a primary opponent. But Gigliotti said, the success he and Clark achieved two years ago, when they collectively won 41.6 percent of the vote, suggests the electorate is ready for a change.
“The important part is that almost 43 percent of the voters rejected Ralph Hall, even with the power of the incumbency. I think it is a foregone conclusion that Hall will not win the primary outright this time,” said Gigliotti, who had about $5,000 in his campaign account at the end of the September filing period. “I also think that with my previous support at just over 21 percent in the three-way race, puts me in a good position. I think that the main opponent is the newest person, Ratcliffe, who has just entered the race.”
Indeed, the candidacy of Ratcliffe may have muddied Hall’s traditionally clean path to reelection, say political observers. A former U.S Attorney for North Texas during the George W. Bush Administration, Ratcliffe boasts a demonstrated track record on illegal immigration and counter-terrorism, not to mention lucrative connections with former Bush mainstays John Ashcroft and David Ayers through Ratcliffe’s position as a partner with Ashcroft’s Kansas City-based law firm.
Ratcliffe said he’s not running against Hall so much as he’s hoping to continue his legacy. “I’ve been a big supporter of Congressman Hall. I know that we both care deeply about the country, and I think we both believe we’re doing what’s right,” said Ratcliffe. “This campaign is about giving voters a choice between good candidates. I think that’s what makes democracy work. I want to continue to provide the same type of leadership that (Hall) has in years to come.”
Ratcliffe, who grew up in Illinois and relocated to Texas two decades ago, said upon entering the race that he would lead the primary in fundraising — Hall included — and he’s well on his way to that goal, he said. The former mayor of Heath said he received more than $25,000 in donations during “the first few hours” on the campaign trail, and plans to have $100,000 in the bank by Christmas. Were he to achieve that goal, it would likely be enough to put him on level financial ground with Hall, a little more than three months before the March primary.
But if history is any indication, it will take more than money in the bank to slow Hall’s electoral momentum. Clark — the only person in the last three decades able to stay on Hall’s heels in the spending department — used nearly $600,000 of his personal fortune to mount a 2010 challenge that still fell 7 points short of triggering a runoff election that would have pitted the two màno-a-màno. Clark could not be reached for comment.
Two wild-cards in the 2014 race could be a Houston-based political action committee (PAC) that spent heavily during the last election and political newcomer Tony Arterburn Jr.
Arterburn is an Army vet who has shown early ability to self-finance and fundraise, kicking-in more than $53,000 of his own money in addition to $8,700 in contributions. He also wields the a strong social-network presence – an increasingly valuable commodity in a modern campaign.
“We had a lot of interaction between our core followers, who were sharing our posts, and we actively ask people to like our (Facebook) page. But it mostly comes from our supporters sharing and following and telling their friends about it, so we’re able to achieve a decent amount of Likes,” said Arterburn, explaining the growth of his online popularity. “Right now, (our campaign is) just appealing to the everyday person, ‘cause that’s honestly who I want to represent anyway. If you let establishment politicians continue to run this (country), we’re on an unsustainable path.”
The anti-incumbent PAC calling itself the Campaign for Primary Accountability was a third-party player in 2012 whose impact on the race appeared to be minimal. The group attacked a dozen sitting congressmen during the last election, including $360,000 spent attacking Hall. Despite the PAC’s hefty ad buy, financed by Houston construction mogul Leo Linbeck, Hall won with a higher percentage in 2012 than 2010. Linbeck did not return calls seeking comment.
For his part, Hall said he plans to keep his nose to the grindstone over the next few months, focusing his efforts on health-care reform and questions of the budget. Hall said he will continue to travel back from Washington to the district to campaign each weekend, a tradition he started in the 1980s to spend time with his wife Mary Ellen, who passed away in 2007.
“There’s just two ways to run, and that’s either unopposed or scared,” said Hall. “I think I’m OK, but I have to work. But then again, I have to work hard every time.”
The candidates will face off in the March 4 primary.