John Ratcliffe: The TT Interview

The new Texas congressman on ousting the dean of his home state's delegation, making friends in Washington and his insistence that he won't "fit into a particular box."

John Ratcliffe, Republican candidate for Texas' 4th U.S. Congressional District speaks in Fort Worth on June 5, 2014.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe could have had a miserable first few days in Congress.

But thanks to the man he ousted from the Texas delegation, former Rep. Ralph M. Hall, Ratcliffe said he had a relatively easy transition.

“Congressman Hall was very gracious in the aftermath of the primary,” Ratcliffe said in a recent interview with The Texas Tribune.

Hall was not just the dean of the delegation — he was one of its most popular members. Texas Republicans, a close-knit group, rallied behind Hall’s campaign, holding fundraisers and donating to his campaign.

Ratcliffe could have come to Washington in January as the Texas GOP's odd man out. Instead, Ratcliffe said he's been welcomed. 

A former mayor of Heath, Ratcliffe represents the 4th District, a sprawling stretch of the state that encompasses everything between suburban Dallas and Texarkana. He is a longtime Republican – he worked on Mitt Romney’s would-be transition team in 2012 and was a George W. Bush-era appointee. But he also ran against the establishment in his bid to unseat Hall. 

Which is probably why as a congressman, Ratcliffe is so insistent that he will not “fit into a particular box” when it comes to dealing with leadership and the pressure of outside groups.

The following is an edited and condensed transcript of the interview. 

TT: Was Rep. Hall helpful in the transition?  

Ratcliffe: He went out of his way, I think, to tell folks up here in D.C., “John is going to be my congressman, now. I want him to do well. Treat him the way that you’ve treated me.”

That’s helped with the transition, from other members up here. And that wouldn’t surprise anyone that knows Ralph Hall. That’s just the kind of person that he is. So there wasn’t any sort of acrimony there at all. And so from my perspective, he made the transition easier, and I was grateful for it. 

TT: Can you talk about your relationship with the Texas delegation?

Ratcliffe: The Texas delegation has also been welcoming to me once it became clear I was coming to Washington. And the Texas delegation works very hard to try and be on the same page.

[U.S. Rep.] Will Hurd and I are very good friends. But we represent, as Republicans, very different constituencies. And so, not withstanding the fact that he and I are personally very good friends … we both realize that to represent our constituencies well, we’re not going to be on the same side of certain issues.

And that’s okay.

That’s true with respect to the Texas delegation generally. I want to get along with everyone, but I don’t see my role up here as being part of a bloc and voting as one, as part of the Texas delegation.

TT: Do you think you will work with or against House leadership?

Ratcliffe: It depends on the bill. I’m not trying to be cagey there.

I certainly don’t see myself as an establishment guy or a leadership guy, but I also don’t see myself as a bomb-thrower who’s anti-establishment or [an] anti-leadership guy.

The challenge of the Republican Party is, if we’re going to start winning national elections, we’ve got to get along as all kinds of Republicans.

We need a big tent, and so I don’t think I fit in any particularly category. And that’s fair, given that I represent a constituency that has elements of all of those [strains of the GOP].

Significant in the collar counties around Dallas, that would be more of a sort of Chamber of Commerce-type of Republican. In other places it’s more of a Tea Party constitutional conservative or libertarian or other, and I need to represent all of those.

I’m going to vote against leadership, but I’m also going to vote against some of the outside groups … that want to take the position opposite of leadership.