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
U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of Texas
In office
February 2007 – July 2008
Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas
In office
Mayor of Heath, Texas
In office
May 2004 – May 2012
Personal details
Born John Lee Ratcliffe[1]
(1965-10-20) October 20, 1965 (age 51)
Mount Prospect, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Republican
Residence Heath, Texas
Alma mater University of Notre Dame (B.A.)
Southern Methodist University (J.D.)
Occupation Attorney
Website House website

John Lee Ratcliffe (born October 20, 1965) is an American politician from Chicago, Illinois who serves as the Congressman for Texas's 4th congressional district. The district stretches from the outer eastern suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to Texarkana, and includes Sherman, Bonham, Denison and Rockwall.

He defeated 17-term incumbent Ralph Hall, who was the oldest member and one of the last WWII veterans in Congress at the time,[2] in the runoff primary election on May 27, 2014. Ratcliffe was unopposed in the November 4, 2014 general election and was sworn in as a member of the 114th United States Congress on January 6, 2015. On November 8, 2016, Ratcliffe was re-elected to a second term in Congress defeating Cody Wommack of Lone Star, Texas who nevertheless earned the highest vote total and highest vote percentage for a third party candidate in the district's history.

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.[3]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Ratcliffe was born in Mount Prospect, northwest of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, the youngest of six children. Both of his parents were teachers.[4] In 1987, Ratcliffe graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and International Studies. He earned his Juris Doctor in 1989 from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in University Park, Texas.[5]

He 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 SMU and Texas Wesleyan University. Between 2004 to 2012, he was elected to four consecutive terms as mayor of Heath, Texas, a nonpartisan position.[6]

Bush administration[edit]

In 2004, Republican U.S. President George W. Bush appointed Ratcliffe to be Chief of Anti-Terrorism and National Security for the Eastern District of Texas in the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2007, he was appointed United States Attorney of the Eastern District of Texas. It covered 33,000 square miles, including almost all of the 4th Congressional District. He managed 100 federal prosecutors, 6 district offices, and a $912 million budget allocated by the DOJ. On April 16, 2008, “Operation Plymouth Rock” led to the successful prosecution of hundreds of illegal aliens who unlawfully gained employment, which resulted in a $4.5 million criminal penalty.[5] Following his public service, he went back into private law practice, becoming a partner with the John Ashcroft Law Firm, LLC. He served as an aide to Mitt Romney as part of a transition team established before the 2012 elections for vetting potential government appointees.[7]

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 Texas's 4th congressional 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."[8] 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."[9] 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.[10]

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

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.[11] 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.

2016 election[edit]

On March 1, 2016 Ratcliffe easily defeated two primary challengers by earning 68 percent percent of the vote total. He finished 47 percentage points ahead of the second-place finisher. In the 2016 General Election, Ratcliffe held a Libertarian opponent to 12 percent of the ballots cast.


Ratcliffe serves on the Judiciary Committee and Homeland Security 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.[12]

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." [13]

In July 2016, Ratcliffe obtained passage of the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016 out of the House of Representatives by 240 to 171 vote. Ratcliffe applauded its passage as a "huge win against the regulatory state" and says it "knocks the pillars out from under the Regulatory State after 30 years of growth fueled by Chevron Deference.” [14]

Political stances[edit]

National security[edit]

Ratcliffe supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to temporarily curtail Muslim immigration 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.[15]


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.[16]

Personal life[edit]

Ratcliffe and his wife, Michele, reside with their two daughters in Heath, Texas, which is included in both Rockwall and Kaufman counties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State Bar of Texas
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Heritage Scorecard". Heritage Action for America. December 24, 2016. Retrieved December 24, 2016. 
  4. ^ "John’s Story". Ratcliffe for Congress. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "John Ratcliffe". LinkedIn. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  6. ^ "John Ratcliffe". The Ashcroft Group. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (May 27, 2014). "Rep. Ralph Hall defeated by John Ratcliffe". Washington Post. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ Gillman, Todd (December 9, 2013). "Ex-US Attorney John Ratcliffe files against Ralph Hall". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Editorial: We recommend Ratcliffe in the 4th Congressional District’s GOP primary". Dallas Morning News. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 25 August 2014. 
  10. ^ DelReal, Jose (May 27, 2014). "Ralph Hall loses Texas GOP runoff". Politico. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  11. ^ Kecseg, Ross (May 29, 2014). "Ralph Hall Makes History…Will Texans Take Notice?". Empower Texans. Retrieved May 29, 2014. 
  12. ^ Ratcliffe Named to Task Force On Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, Press Release,
  13. ^ "Editorial: We recommend John Ratcliffe in GOP race for 4th Congressional District". Dallas News. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Exclusive: John Ratcliffe Says Bill Reverses 30 Years of Regulator Dominance in Courts". Breitbart. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  15. ^ Blake, Aaron. "Coffman, Gardner join Republicans against President Trump’s travel ban; here’s where the rest stand". Denver Post. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  16. ^ "Ratcliffe chairs hearing on DHS-private sector partnerships on cybersecurity". Homeland Preparedness News. 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-03-15. 

External links[edit]

United States 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
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Bruce Poliquin
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Kathleen Rice
D-New York