SULPHUR SPRINGS — State Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, has won the Republican nomination to replace former U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, on the November ballot — and will likely succeed him.
Fallon prevailed Saturday on the first ballot held by county and precinct chairs who had been tasked with finding the new nominee. Fallon won a clear majority of the group, getting 82 votes out of 145 cast. The runner-up was former Ratcliffe staffer Jason Ross, who received 34 votes.
The district is solidly red, so Fallon is expected to win in November even though a Democrat, Russell Foster, is also on the ballot.
In his victory speech, Fallon said he "didn’t get 82 votes — I had 82 friends who supported me." He also promised to get to work in the district on helping President Donald Trump get reelected. Polls continue to show the race is close in Texas.
"We need to make sure that we run the score up in CD-4 so we can help President Trump carry this state and save our country, and we only have a few months left to do that," Fallon said. "As hard as you’ve seen me work in the last three months, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
The unique election was prompted earlier this year when Ratcliffe was confirmed as director of national intelligence, creating a vacancy in the largely rural northeast Texas district. Gov. Greg Abbott opted against calling a special election to finish Ratcliffe's term, so the winner in the November election will take office in January to serve a full new term.
At least 18 candidates had been running for the nomination on Saturday, though only 12 were nominated from the floor at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
The third-place finisher was Atlanta Mayor Travis Ransom, who garnered 16 votes. None of the other nine candidates broke double digits.
Fallon and Ross, Ratcliffe's former district chief of staff, had long been viewed as two of the more serious contenders. Ross touted his closeness to Ratcliffe — he was endorsed by the former incumbent's wife — and played up his long residency in the district. Fallon pitched himself as the most proven conservative and shrugged off criticism that he was political opportunist from outside the district.
While Ross showed off his connections to the Ratcliffes, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz boosted Fallon, even traveling to Sulphur Springs on Saturday prior to the vote. Cruz stumped for Fallon there in the morning before two groups of 40 delegates, joined by several state representatives from the region backing Fallon.
Candidate speeches made clear that many viewed Fallon as the man to beat. Ross and most of Fallon's other rivals emphasized the need to nominate someone with strong roots in the district, and in an apparent reference to Cruz's drop-in, one rival asked delegates not to be persuaded by any candidate "who gave you a fancy breakfast."
In his speech, Fallon argued he would be the most reliable conservative given his record in Austin. He also promised to use his state Capitol connections to protect the 4th District in redistricting.
"Ted Cruz endorsed me and he came up here to Sulphur Springs today because he can't do it alone," Fallon said. "He needs reinforcements in D.C., and he wants me by his side."
While Fallon noted he has represented parts of the congressional district in the Legislature, Ross drove home his local pitch, saying he has "lived 10,000 days of my life in this district."
"I love this district and I'm loyal to it and I'm not running to be anybody else," Ross said. "I'm Jason Ross, the guy that grew up here, came back and raised his family here and has the experience to start on Day 1 at full speed."
The race took a tragic turn last month, when one of the better-known candidates, state appeals court Justice David Bridges, died in a crash with an alleged drunk driver. A Royse City woman was charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with the crash.
Before the vote got underway Saturday, the delegates were read a letter from Bridges' family about how much he enjoyed the campaign.
"Thank you for helping my father chase his dreams," the letter said in conclusion.
Fallon's victory means there will be a special election to replace him in Texas Senate District 30, which is safely Republican. The timing of that special election depends on when Fallon vacates the seat, either by resigning early or taking office in January. After winning Saturday, Fallon told The Texas Tribune that he had not yet decided how he would handle giving up his Senate seat.