Ratcliffe DNI Selection Opens Window for Special Election

untitledUpdate:  U.S. Rep John Ratcliffe withdrew his name from consideration for the DNI post Friday.

President Donald Trump’s pick of U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, for Director of National Intelligence may have taken Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Washington’s elite by surprise, but Marion County residents know Ratcliffe should make an excellent choice.

Ratcliffe gained Trump’s attention during his questioning of Robert Mueller at the House hearing July 24, but Ratcliffe is well known in these parts. As the representative from Texas’ Fourth District now in his third term, Ratcliffe has campaigned in Jefferson and hosted a listening session at City Drug.

“I believe John Ratcliffe has done an excellent job as our local congressman and has served the people of our district with honesty and integrity and has been a very effective member of the House,” James Parsons, Marion County Republican chairman, said.

During an October, 2018 interview with the Jimplecute, Ratcliffe elaborated on his work on cyber security. “Cyber security is one of my top priorities,” Ratcliffe said. “I view it as our greatest national security threat. I may be the most prolific cyber legislator over the last few years. I think I’ve had seven cyber bills, with several signed into law.”

The Strengthening State and Local Cyber Crime Fighting Act, sponsored by Ratcliffe, authorized a facility into law called the national computer forensics institute in Hoover, Alabama. It’s run by United States Secret Service to train state and local law enforcement officials.

“To give you an example of how it’s working in Northeast Texas is recently we had a case where one of the folks that was trained in Hopkins County down at the National Computer Forensics Institute under the benefits of my law, resulted in the conviction of a school teacher that had over 100 child victims.”

A firm grasp of cyber issues seems a necessary asset for any DNI. Duties of the DNI include the President’s Daily Brief. He is also responsible for whistle blowing and source protection for all of the nation’s intelligence agencies.

The key question McConnell and the other senators must answer is, will Ratcliffe speak truth to power? Undoubtedly, Ratcliffe’s ringing defense of Trump won him the nomination, but to do his job effectively, he must buck the boss on occasion.

Parsons has no doubts.“I don’t think the President could find a better qualified candidate for Director of National Intelligence,” Parsons said. “I believe his (Ratcliffe’s) tenure as a U.S. Attorney with the Department of Justice combined with his service on the House Intelligence Committee, Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Committee and Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection makes him an ideal candidate for the job.”

If the Senate confirms Ratcliffe as DNI, he will resign as our U.S. Representative. It is highly unlikely that he will resign before he has secured the new post. Once Ratcliffe resigns, Gov. Greg Abbott will call a special election.

My guess is the election will be sometime early in 2020, although a vote on Nov. 5 is possible. Special Elections work different than the regular election cycle. There is no primary. Members of both parties are on the same ballot.

If no one wins a majority of the votes cast, there will be a runoff election with the top two candidates. With no incumbent on the ballot both parties, and probably some independents, are excited at the possibilities.

The last time voters in this area had an open special election for congressman came in 1985 when Sam B. Hall, D-Marshall, resigned to become a U.S. District Judge. The Reagan appointment was part of former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm’s plan to replace conservative Democrats with Republicans.

Jim Chapman, D-Sulphur Springs won the special election, however, beating Edd Hargett, R-Douglasville, in the runoff. It would not be until 2005 when this area would have a Republican congressman. Northeast Texas counties merged with District 4 represented by Ralph Hall after redistricting.

Ratcliffe unseated Hall in 2015.“This is welcome news for us,” Ricky Harrington, Marion County Democratic chairman, said. “We are definitely looking forward to filling that seat with a good Democrat.”

It remains to be seen if a Democrat stands a chance in this district, but with an open special election, it will be fun to watch. I also think Ratcliffe will do a good job as DNI. He did not accept the appointment to become a palace eunuch.

 

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