John Ratcliffe (American politician)

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John Ratcliffe
Congressman John Lee Ratcliffe.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Preceded by Ralph Hall
Interim United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas
In office
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Matthew D. Orwig[1]
Succeeded by Rebecca Gregory[2]
Mayor of Heath, Texas
In office
Preceded by Chris Cuny[3]
Succeeded by Lorne Liechty[4]
Personal details
Born John Lee Ratcliffe
(1965-10-20) October 20, 1965 (age 52)
Mount Prospect, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Republican
Education University of Notre Dame (BA)
Southern Methodist University (JD)
Website House website

John Lee Ratcliffe[5] (born October 20, 1965) is an American politician who serves as the congressman for Texas' 4th district. In the runoff primary election on May 27, 2014, Ratcliffe defeated 17-term incumbent Ralph Hall.[6] Ratcliffe was unopposed in the general election on November 4 and was sworn in as a member of the 114th Congress on January 6, 2015. He was re-elected to a second term in 2016 with 88% of the vote, defeating Cody Wommack.

In Heritage Action's final scorecard for the 114th Congress, Ratcliffe was ranked as the most conservative Texas legislator in Congress and second most conservative legislator in the country.[7]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Born in Mount Prospect, Illinois, northwest of Chicago, Ratcliffe was the youngest of six children; both of his parents were teachers.[8][9] He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Studies, then attended law school at SMU in Dallas (now Dedman School of Law) and earned his Juris Doctor in 1989.[10]

Ratcliffe is board certified in civil trial law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has served as adjunct professor of law at various law schools, including Dedman School of Law (SMU) and Texas Wesleyan University. Between 2004 and 2012, he was elected to four consecutive terms as mayor of Heath, Texas.[11]

George W. Bush administration[edit]

Ratcliffe as a U.S. Attorney

In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed Ratcliffe to be Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas in the Department of Justice. In 2007, he was appointed U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Texas. It covered 33,000 square miles (85,000 km2), including almost all of the 4th congressional district. He managed 100 federal prosecutors, 6 district offices, and a $912 million budget allocated by the Department of Justice.[citation needed]

Following his public service, he went back into private law practice, becoming a partner with the John Ashcroft Law Firm. He served as an aide to Mitt Romney as part of a transition team established before the 2012 elections for vetting potential government appointees.[12]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

2014 election[edit]

Ratcliffe decided to run in the Republican primary against 17-term incumbent Congressman Ralph Hall of the 4th district. At ninety-one, Hall was the oldest member of Congress and the oldest person ever to serve in the House of Representatives. The Dallas Morning News wrote that Ratcliffe was Hall's "most serious political challenge in years."[13] In a primary where Hall had begun to look increasingly vulnerable, Ratcliffe received the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, which applauded Hall's long record of public service but cited Ratcliffe's "impressive credentials" and the need for "new ideas and fresh energy."[14] No Democrat even filed, though the 4th is so heavily Republican that any Democratic candidate would have faced nearly impossible odds in any event. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+25, it is the fifth most Republican district in Texas and tied for the 13th most Republican district in the nation.

In the March 4 primary, Ratcliffe finished second with 29 percent of the vote, behind Hall's 45 percent. However, because Hall came up short of a majority, a runoff was forced on May 27. Ratcliffe was subsequently endorsed by the Tea Party Express, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Club For Growth. Hall was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, former Congressman Ron Paul, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.[15]

In the May 27 runoff, Ratcliffe defeated Hall with 53 percent of the vote. Ratcliffe won eleven of the eighteen counties in the district, including the four largest (Grayson, Rockwall, Hunt, and Lamar).

John Ratcliffe during an interview with KETR in February 2015
Ratcliffe with President Donald Trump in 2017

Although it is very rare in any event for a primary challenger to defeat a sitting congressman, Ratcliffe's victory was historic as it marked the first time that a sitting Republican congressman in Texas had been ousted in a primary. Incumbents had previously been successful in all 257 attempts.[16] Hall's defeat was also the first by an incumbent member of Congress in the 2014 election cycle. Ratcliffe was sworn in as a member of the 114th United States Congress on January 6, 2015. He is just the fourth person to represent the district since it was created in 1903, and the first freshman Republican to win it.

2016 election[edit]

On March 1, 2016 Ratcliffe easily defeated two primary challengers by earning 68 percent of the vote total. He finished 47 percentage points ahead of the second-place finisher. Once again, no Democrat even filed, all but assuring Ratcliffe of a second term. In the 2016 General Election, Ratcliffe held a Libertarian opponent to 12 percent of the ballots cast.


Ratcliffe serves on the Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Committee, and Ethics Committee. He is also the Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity. He was named to the Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel.[17]

The Dallas Morning News said in April 2016 that "Ratcliffe's first term in Washington proves that freshman lawmakers can be players of consequence in Congress."[18]

Ratcliffe's questioning of then FBI Director James Comey during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in September 2016 has become front and center in the debate about whether Comey's decision to not recommend charges against Clinton was predetermined. When Ratcliffe asked Comey in that hearing whether Comey made his decision to not recommend charges against Clinton before or after interviewing her, he responded "after." That answer under oath potentially contradicts subsequent reports that Comey began drafting his exoneration memo before interviewing Clinton.[19]

Ratcliffe is a member of the Republican Study Committee[20] and the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus.[21]

Political positions[edit]

National security[edit]

Ratcliffe supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries until better screening methods are devised. He stated, "I applaud President Trump's actions to vamp up the vetting of refugees attempting to enter our country."[22]


In March 2014, Ratcliffe oversaw a congressional hearing, "The Current State of DHS Private Sector Engagement for Cybersecurity", that studied ways to get the private sector and the Department of Homeland Security to better cooperate to prevent terrorist activity. He secured testimony from various organizations: the Hitrust Alliance, Intel Security Group, Symantec, Palo Alto Networks, and New America's Open Technology Institute.[23]

Net neutrality[edit]

In December 2017, Ratcliffe signed a letter from Congress (along with 106 other members of Congress) to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai supporting his plan to repeal net neutrality ahead of the commission's vote.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Ratcliffe and his wife, Michele, reside with their two daughters in Heath, Texas.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ratcliffe assumes role as lead law enforcement officer for East Texas". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "Senate Confirms Becky Gregory As New U.S. Attorney For Eastern District Of Texas". April 29, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "Elected Officials". Archived from the original on April 30, 2004. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Justin Cheatham. "New officials take command of Heath council". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "State Bar of Texas - Find A Lawyer: John Lee Ratcliffe". Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  6. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (May 27, 2014). "Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe". Retrieved December 19, 2017 – via
  7. ^ "Heritage Scorecard". Heritage Action for America. December 24, 2016. Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  8. ^ "John's Story". Ratcliffe for Congress. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Biography". Congressman John Ratcliffe. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  10. ^ "John Ratcliffe". LinkedIn. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  11. ^ "John Ratcliffe". The Ashcroft Group. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  12. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (May 27, 2014). "Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe". Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  13. ^ Gillman, Todd (December 9, 2013). "Ex-US Attorney John Ratcliffe files against Ralph Hall". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  14. ^ "Editorial: We recommend Ratcliffe in the 4th Congressional District's GOP primary". Dallas Morning News. January 22, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  15. ^ DelReal, Jose (May 27, 2014). "Ralph Hall loses Texas GOP runoff". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2014.
  16. ^ Kecseg, Ross (May 29, 2014). "Ralph Hall Makes History…Will Texans Take Notice?". Empower Texans. Retrieved May 29, 2014.
  17. ^ Ratcliffe Named to Task Force On Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, Press Release,
  18. ^ "Editorial: We recommend John Ratcliffe in GOP race for 4th Congressional District". Dallas News. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  19. ^ "New Pressure on Comey to Return to Capitol Hill". Fox News. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  20. ^ "Member List". Republican Study Committee. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  21. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  22. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump's travel ban; here's where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved January 30, 2017.
  23. ^ "Ratcliffe chairs hearing on DHS-private sector partnerships on cybersecurity". Homeland Preparedness News. March 14, 2017. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  24. ^ "Letter to the FCC on Restoring Internet Freedom". Energy and Commerce Committee. December 13, 2017. Retrieved December 14, 2017.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ralph Hall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 4th congressional district

January 3, 2015 – present
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bruce Poliquin
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Kathleen Rice
D-New York