Another Vacancy in the U.S. House

Texas US Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall), just confirmed as the country’s new Director of National Intelligence, has already resigned from the U.S. House meaning that the state’s 4th Congressional District will now be open for the general election.

Almost as quickly as Rep. Ratcliffe’s post-confirmation resignation occurred, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that he will not call a special election to fill the balance of the term. Therefore, the 4th District seat will remain vacant until the next Congress convenes in January. This is the third seat that won’t be filled this year, and it joins CA-50 (Rep. Duncan Hunter’s resignation) and NC-11 (Rep. Mark Meadows' resignation) as incumbent-less seats until 2021. All three districts are safe or likely Republican.

Since the Texas primary was held on March 3 and Rep. Ratcliffe was re-nominated with majority support, the CD-4 congressional race will not advance to a July 14 runoff election. Therefore, the district’s Republican Executive Committee will convene on August 8, according to Texas Republican Party chairman James Dickey, in order for the members to choose the party’s general election replacement nominee.

Because TX-4 is a safe Republican seat (Trump ’16: 75-22%; Ratcliffe ’18: 76-23%), this committee will almost assuredly be choosing the next Congressman. And, the eventual GOP nominee who emerges from the committee replacement process will have one of the easiest paths into the US House of any new member.

A large field of prospective office holders will declare their candidacies. Already announced are Rockwall City Councilman Trace Johannesen, retired Navy SEAL Floyd McLendon, Navy veteran T.C. Manning, and attorney Jason Ross. Mr. McLendon has already been on the ballot this year. He lost the 32nd District congressional Republican primary on March 3 to businesswoman Genevieve Collins* who is now challenging freshman Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas).

Texas’ 4th District begins in the far outer eastern suburbs of Dallas, and then stretches all the way to Arkansas along the Red River that forms the Texas-Oklahoma border. Beginning with the cities of Rockwall and Heath near Dallas, the district sweeps as far as Texarkana located in the Lone Star State’s far northeast corner. Along the way, small towns with well-known names appear such as Atlanta, Naples, Paris, Pittsburg, and New Boston.

Politically, the district has a colorful history. Since 1903, only five individuals have represented the region. This is mostly because two of the Congressmen, the Legendary Sam Rayburn (D), who was elected House Speaker and has one of the body’s office buildings named in his honor, and Rep. Ralph Hall, held the seat for a combined 82 of those years.

Congressman Hall was first elected to the House as a Democrat in 1980 after spending 10 years in the Texas Senate. He then joined the Republican Party before the 2004 election and served the remainder of his tenure as a member of the GOP.

Mr. Ratcliffe was elected in 2014 after challenging Rep. Hall in the Republican primary, forcing a runoff, and then defeating him in the secondary election. At the time, Mr. Hall, who passed away in 2019, was 91 years of age while still in Congress and is the oldest person to ever serve in the House.

Subtracting the two seats that were filled with special elections in early May and now adding this district, 42 House seats are open heading into the general election. New York’s 27th District will be filled in a June 23 special election. A total of 31 opens are Republican held, while Democrats risk only ten.

At this point, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who now belongs to the Libertarian Party and the only member who isn’t a Republican or Democrat, has announced he is not seeking re-election. He could, however, still file as a minor party candidate even though Michigan’s major party candidate filing deadline has expired. Mr. Amash formed an exploratory committee to seek the Libertarian presidential nomination but announced last week that he would not enter the race. He did not indicate whether he would re-enter the congressional race, but still has that opportunity.

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