Inside Politics: Hall to be oldest House member ever

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DALLAS — When Ralph M. Hall was elected to the U.S. House in 1980 at the age of 57, he had already served in the Navy in World War II, built a successful business career and served in Texas’ state government for many years.

On Christmas Day, the North Texas congressman will become the oldest person to serve in the U.S. House, surpassing the record of Rep. Charles Manly Stedman of North Carolina, who died in office in 1930 at age 89 years, 7 months and 25 days.

Hall, who turns 90 on May 3, this year became the oldest House member to cast a vote. Those close to the Rockwall Republican say he remains active. Voters re-elected him last month to a 17th term, and Mr. Hall told The Dallas Morning News he may even run again.

“I’m just an old guy — lived pretty clean,” Mr. Hall said. “I have no ailments. I don’t hurt anywhere. I may run again. I’ll just wait and see.”

It’s more common for senators to serve into their later years, in part because senators run for re-election every six years instead of every two.

Mr. Hall’s longtime chief of staff, Janet Perry Poppleton, and fellow members of Texas’ congressional delegation credit him for staying active and physically healthy.

CONNECTICUT

Kennedy not running for Massachusetts seat

HARTFORD — Edward Kennedy Jr., a son of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, announced Monday he has decided not to run for the Senate seat from Massachusetts that will become vacant if John F. Kerry is confirmed as secretary of state.

The 51-year-old health care lawyer, who lives in Connecticut and owns a home in Massachusetts, issued a statement saying he’s “extremely grateful for all of the offers of support” he has received from people over the past several days urging him to run, but he plans to remain in Branford.

“Although I have a strong desire to serve in public office, I consider Connecticut to be my home, and I hope to have the honor to serve at another point in my future,” he said.

Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman who represented Rhode Island, told The Associated Press on Saturday that his brother was considering running in the special election for Mr. Kerry’s seat, given the numerous encouraging calls he has received from their late father’s friends and former colleagues, including former Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.

Patrick Kennedy said the callers told his brother that he “has what it takes to keep that seat in Democratic hands” because of the Kennedy name and “the legacy of my family,” but also “because of what they know about my brother.”

TEXAS

Dewhurst pledges ‘bold’ conservative agenda

AUSTIN — Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has promised a more conservative state Senate in 2013.

That’s saying a lot.

The 31-member chamber has been dominated by a Republican majority since 1997 and was anything but liberal in 2011 when it passed new restrictions on abortion, cut public education, required voters to produce photo identification and approved a get-tough-on-immigration measure.

If that’s not conservative enough, just how far right does Mr. Dewhurst want the Senate to go? In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Dewhurst said he wants Texas to be “the most fiscally and socially conservative state in the country.”

“We’re going to pass one of the boldest agendas of the last decade, building even on the 2011 successful session, which is the most conservative session in recent history,” Mr. Dewhurst said.

For Mr. Dewhurst, that means even tougher restrictions on abortion, new public school choice measures, drug tests for welfare and unemployment aid recipients, and keeping Texas among the lowest in the nation in per-capita public spending when the Legislature convenes its 140-day session Jan. 8

PENTAGON

Army sending teams to Africa for training

A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists.

The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and won’t be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approval from the secretary of defense.

The sharper focus on Africa by the U.S. comes against a backdrop of widespread insurgent violence across North Africa, and as the African Union and other nations discuss military intervention in northern Mali.

The terror threat from al Qaeda-linked groups in Africa has been growing steadily. Officials believe the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi may have been carried out by insurgents with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

FLORIDA

Former gubernatorial candidate dies at 67

MIAMI — Bill McBride, the Florida Democrat who defeated Janet Reno for the party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2002 but lost to Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, has died at the age of 67.

His wife, Alex Sink, said Mr. McBride suffered a fatal heart attack Saturday while visiting with family in Mount Airy, N.C. Ms. Sink was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, losing to now-Gov. Rick Scott. The couple lived outside of Tampa.

Ms. Sink said Mr. McBride, an attorney, had long suffered from heart problems.

Mr. McBride defeated Ms. Reno, who was U.S. attorney general under President Clinton, in the Democratic primary to run against Mr. Bush. Before entering politics, he was managing partner at the prestigious Holland & Knight law firm.

Ms. Sink said Mr. McBride’s true legacy was as a longtime civil rights champion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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