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Inside Politics

Texas Rep. Hall switches to GOP

From John Mercurio
CNN Washington Bureau

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Rep. Ralph Hall, D-Texas, will run for his 13th term as a Republican.

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WASHINGTON -- Democratic Rep. Ralph Hall, the longest serving member of the Texas congressional delegation, told CNN Friday evening he has switched parties and will file to run for a 13th term as a Republican.

"I consulted some constituents and most agreed with me," Hall told CNN's Michael McManus in a phone interview Friday night.

"I have voted with the Republicans most of the time. The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressman have not been doing that," Hall added.

"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," he said.

Hall spoke earlier Friday with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a fellow Texas congressman, to inform him of his plan.

In a statement issued Friday night, House Speaker Dennis Hastert welcomed Hall into the Republican Party.

"Ralph is a man of courage and a man of great conviction. For more than 23 years he has acted in the best interest of his constituents back home and has always put country before politics," Hastert said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also welcomed Hall.

"His common-sense approach to legislating and serving the nation is welcome in the Republican Party," he said in a statement.

Hall's decision comes as no surprise to Texas political insiders. The congressman's voting record is one of the most conservative in the House; he crossed party lines to endorse Bush's presidential bid in 2000 and was seriously considered for the post of energy secretary in the Bush administration.

Facing pressure from House GOP leaders in his 2002 re-election campaign, he also agreed to back a Republican for speaker.

Notably, however, Hall's move comes after Republican state lawmakers in Austin spared him in a redistricting map that targets every other Anglo Democrat in the House. His district, based in the city of Tyler, was largely untouched by the GOP-drawn map, which is currently facing a Democratic court challenge.

After Hall's switch, Republicans hold 229 seats in the House, to the Democrats' 204. There is currently one Independent and one vacancy, created when Republican Ernie Fletcher resigned last month to become governor of Kentucky.

There will be another vacancy in the House January 20, when Rep. Bill Janklow's seat becomes available after the South Dakota Republican's resignation goes into effect.

Janklow resigned in December after being convicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter stemming from a crash in which a motorcyclist died.

A special election to replace him will be held June 1.


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