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Ralph_Hall

Ralph Hall

Ralph Moody Hall (born May 3, 1923) is a United States Representative from . First elected in 1980, Hall is the ranking Republican of the Science Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He is the dean of the Texas congressional delegation, as well as the oldest serving member of the House of Representatives.

Military service and Education

Hall is a lifelong resident of Rockwall County, near Dallas. He was born in Fate, Texas. He graduated from Rockwall High School in 1941.

Hall joined the U.S. Navy on December 10, 1942, serving as a lieutenant (senior grade) aircraft carrier pilot from 1942 to 1945, during World War II.

Hall attended Texas Christian University in Fort Worth during 1943. After the war, he attended the University of Texas (1946–47), and received a law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1951. He was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951 and maintained a private law practice in Rockwall for many years.

Business experience

Hall was the president/CEO of Texas Aluminum Corp. and general counsel of Texas Extrusion Co., Inc. He was founding member and chairman of Lakeside National Bank of Rockwall, and was chairman of the directors of Lakeside News, Inc. He was a counsel for the aircraft parts maker Howmet Corporation from 1970 to 1974.

As of 2006, Hall was serving as the unpaid chairman, president or director of Crowley Holding Co., Bank of Crowley, Lakeside National Bank, Lakeside Bancshares Inc., North & East Trading Co., and Linrock Inc.

Political career

1950–1980

Hall was elected county judge (chief executive) of Rockwall County in November 1950; he held that position until 1962.

In 1962, Hall was elected to the Texas State Senate after incumbent Ray Roberts won a special election to replace Sam Rayburn in Congress. He served two terms there before returning to private business in 1973.

Election to the House of Representatives

Hall won the Democratic nomination for the 4th District in 1980, after Roberts retired He defeated Republican John Wright, a business manager, with 52% of the vote — the closest race in the district's history. Hall is only the fourth person to represent the 4th District since its creation in 1903. The district's second congressman, Rayburn (the longtime Speaker of the House), had represented the district for 48 years.

Conservative Democrat

Hall described himself as "an old-time conservative Democrat," even by Texas Democratic standards. Indeed, he was one of the most (if not the most) conservative Democrats in the House for many years. He was an early supporter of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and also favored legislation requiring a super-majority on any tax increases. He frequently clashed with the Clinton administration, and voted for three of the four articles of impeachment against Clinton. He endorsed George W. Bush for President in 2000; the two had been friends for many years.

Hall's conservative voting record can be explained by the demographics of the 4th District. It had once been reliably Democratic, but became increasingly friendly to Republicans as Dallas' suburban growth reached into the western portion of the district (for instance, Rockwall County includes a small portion of Dallas itself). The 4th has not supported a Democrat for president since 1964. By the 1990s, Hall was the only elected Democrat above the county level in much of the district. In some areas, he was the only elected Democrat period. Despite this district's increasingly Republican tilt, Hall won 10 more terms as a Democrat with an average of 60 percent of the vote. Nonetheless, it was virtually taken for granted that a Republican would win the seat once Hall retired.

Change of party in 2004

Hall was frequently rumored as a candidate to switch parties, especially after the Republicans took control of the House in 1995. Even as Democrats with far less conservative voting records (such as Billy Tauzin and Nathan Deal) switched parties, Hall insisted he would remain a Democrat as long as it did not hurt his constituents. He felt that he had an obligation to "pull my party back toward the middle." He was one of the co-founders of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democrats.

In 2003, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay engineered a controversial mid-decade redistricting. Hall was the only Anglo Democrat not targeted by the remap. However, his district was shifted slightly to the north. Tyler, the heart of the 4th for a century, was shifted to the neighboring 1st District. It did, however, pick up most of Collin County, which had been part of the district until the 1980s round of redistricting.

In January 2004, on the final day for candidates to file to get their names on the ballot for the March 9, 2004 primary, Hall switched parties and became a Republican. Hall said that Republicans refused to put money for his district into a spending bill, and when he asked why, "the only reason I was given was that I was a Democrat." He also cited concerns with his fellow Democrats' criticism of President Bush; he hadn't attended Democratic caucus meetings for some time due to the barbs thrown at his longtime friend. He told the press, "The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressmen have not been doing that."

After the switch, the Republican Party allowed Hall to keep his seniority. He became chairman of the House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality.

House Science Committee

Some had thought that Hall would replace Sherwood Boehlert of New York as chairman of the Science Committee. Boehlert was a leading moderate Republican favored by environmental interests, while Hall has strong ties to the oil and gas industry. However, this did not happen either after his party switch in January 2004 or the November 2004 elections. With Democrats regaining control of Congress in the 2006 elections and with Boehlert's retirement the same year, Hall became the ranking minority member of the committee. He had previously been the ranking minority member from 2001 to 2004 while he was a Democrat.

2004 re-election

In November 2004, Hall ran for his first full term as a Republican. He got heavy White House backing in the three-way GOP primary that year, defeating Mike Murphy and Mike Moshe. Republican leadership even tried to persuade at least one Republican candidate to get out of the race, which the candidate captured on tape. Hall won the primary with 78 percent of the vote, and the general election with 68 percent of the vote defeating Democrat Jim Nickerson and Libertarian Kevin D. Anderson.

2006 re-election

Hall faced Democrat Glenn Melancon, and Libertarian Party candidate Kurt Helm in the 2006 General Election. Hall was again overwhelmingly re-elected with 65% of the vote.

2008 campaign

Hall again faces Democratic nominee Glenn Melancon (campaign website).

Political positions

As mentioned above, Hall's voting record has been largely conservative. However, like many Democrats, Hall voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1999, he was one of six Democrats who supported a GOP tax cut plan. He has been an original cosponsor of bills to repeal the estate tax and the marriage tax penalty.

In late 2002, Hall voted for the resolution allowing the use of force in Iraq. In March 2003, Hall voted for a budget that included Bush's 10-year, $726 billion tax cut plan. The plan passed the House 215-212.

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

Contacts with Lobbyist in 1996 and 1997

The Northern Mariana Islands are a U.S. commonwealth in the Pacific with a large garment industry. Billing records of Preston Gates Ellis and Rouvelas Meeds, an international law firm employed by the CNMI, the government of the islands, show numerous contacts between the law firm and Hall's office. Hall said his dealings with the law firm were with Lloyd Meeds, a partner with the firm, which at the time listed 36 attorneys on staff, not with Jack Abramoff, the firm's representative for the CNMI contract. In 2006, Hall said of the Northern Marianas, "They were good allies, and I believed their government should handle their affairs and not have us impose labor laws on them."

December 1996 trip

In December 1996, Hall and E.K. Slaughter, a friend, and their wives visited the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The trip was arranged by the National Security Caucus Foundation (NSCF), which told Hall that the trip would be paid for by that group. Greg Hilton, the director of the now-defunct NCSF, had no funding for such trips; he only arranged them with CNMI officials. Hilton said he was led to believe by officials of Preston Gates that the CNMI would pay the expenses and be reimbursed by the private sector. In fact, Preston Gates paid the expenses for such trips and billed the CNMI for reimbursement. For the trip of Hall and Slaughter and their wives, Abramoff billed the CNMI $12,800.

"Katrina" controversy

In September 1997, Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) placed remarks in the Congressional Record describing a teenager described as Katrina, whose story had been widely publicized, stating that an "employer had lured her to the CNMI under false pretenses" and that "she was also forced into service as a prostitute.

Abramoff's staff contacted Hall's office fifteen times in the two months following Abercrombie's remarks. In November 1997, Hall entered into the Congressional Record a statement saying that upon reviewing those remarks, he had "felt that Congressman Abercrombie had relied on an erroneous and misleading article published by the Reader's Digest some months ago." The article, according to Hall, said that the teenager "was forced to perform lewd sex acts with customers before a video camera." Hall quoted a report by the (acting) attorney general of the CNMI in response: "in fact...she wanted to do nude dancing...to support her family." The remarks by Abercrombie did not cite that source and the Reader’s Digest June 1997 story by Henry Hurt, "Shame on American Soil," does not refer to a child named Katrina.

In his remarks, Hall also said "I intend to seek further information on matters as reported by the Reader's Digest author — and I would hope that a fair minded person like Congressman Abercrombie would accompany me early next year if, and when, we can both work a visit into our schedule — a visit that would not involve the expenditure of any American tax dollars.

Asked in 2006 how the 1996 trip benefited the Texas Fourth Congressional District he represents, Hall said, "I think it benefits my constituents if you do anything that benefits the Peace Through Strength people, when you’re going out to bring information to them to help win the Cold War. That’s a benefit to them, to their strategic interests." The last gasps of the Cold War ended in 1991.

Hall also said "the whole thing was about ... them setting their own minimum wage. They had told me they would waive their foreign aid in return for setting their own minimum wage." Hall’s comments in the Congressional Record in 1997 do not mention minimum wage and the CNMI receives no foreign aid.

Personal

In 1944, Hall married the former Mary Ellen Murphy on November 14, 1944, while he was serving in the Navy in Pensacola, Florida. They had three sons, Hampton, Brett, and Blakeley, and (as of 2002) had five grandchildren. She died on August 27, 2008.

In January 2004, regarding his switch of party, Hall said "I talked with some of my family. Some agreed, some did not. My wife didn't agree. She'd rather I quit than switch parties."

Notes

External links

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