In 2015, for the first time since the Japanese surrendered to Douglas MacArthur on the U.S.S. Missouri, there will be no World War II veterans in Congress.
With the loss of Rep. Ralph Hall, a 34-year-incumbent in his Republican primary runoff for Congress, “the Greatest Generation” is now officially no longer on Capitol Hill. Hall, a former Democrat who switched to the GOP in 2004, became a target of Tea Party-affliated groups like Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund after he was held under 50% in his March primary. With his defeat, Hall becomes the first incumbent to lose in the 2014 election cycle. But just as last Tuesday's primaries were not really a win for the Republican establishment as some maintained, Hall’s loss isn't a win for the Tea Party either.
Conservative groups smelled Hall’s impending political death after he was forced into a runoff in March and endorsed his opponent John Ratcliffe. The 91-year-old congressman looked vulnerable and made an easy target for outside groups looking to notch a win in a runoff election where turnout would be even lower than the March primary and likely voters even more conservative. Hall, a nonagenarian who had been publically pondering retirement for nearly two decades, was put in the crosshairs of outside groups only after he failed to break 50% in the March primary. Hall wasn’t targeted because he was a RINO. Instead, he was targeted because he looked like carrion.
In a statement, Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, crowed, “Congratulations to John Ratcliffe on his great victory tonight. 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.”
The Tea Party though did notch other wins in Texas on Tuesday, most notably trouncing incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his re-election bid. Dewhurst finished second in the March primary and put out an increasingly strange series of ads as he faced likely defeat.
Hall, a former naval aviator, is one of two World War II veterans still on Capitol Hill. The other, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), announced his retirement in February. Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran in the Senate, died in June 2013.