Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

National news

April 30, 2014

Oldest-ever congressman faces biggest challenge

(Continued)

"I'm running against a guy who has an airport, highway and lake named after him," Ratcliffe said, referring to Rockwall's municipal airport, and a nearby expressway and man-made lake project.

Hall, who turns 91 before the May 27 runoff, shrugs off tea party suggestions he's a Washington insider.

"I just tell them, 'Look at my record. I vote with my party when I can. I vote with my district every time," said Hall, who described his campaign strategy as "walking through every courthouse and walking the cities in the district."

An avid jogger, Hall moves at a brisk pace as he meets passers-by, stopping frequently to chat or hand out pennies fitted with a special silver band bearing his name. He also mails the coins around the district, and when aides tried to scrap the program for something more-modern, they got an earful from supporters wondering about pennies they were used to receiving.

Known in Congress for promoting NASA and energy production, Hall largely forgoes formal campaign stops, instead attending Republican breakfast gatherings or just encountering voters while out and about. Joe Lynch, 65, says he'll remain a Hall supporter for life after running into him at Wal-Mart.

"I saw him coming up the aisle by himself just as unassuming as he could be," Lynch said. "His car with House plates was in the parking lot. How many members of Congress do you think actually shop at Wal-Mart?"

Ratcliffe, by contrast, exploits Web-based advertising and has hired an analytics firm for micro-targeting.

"We've tried to use that to better define and identify the voters within this district and folks that would be supportive of me," Ratcliffe said. He said he hasn't made Hall's age an issue but, "I put him in a class of career politician that has gone to Washington, stayed too long, promised too much and become part of the problem."

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