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MJ Hegar Won Texas's Tense Democratic Senate Primary

Hegar won a contentious runoff election to face Sen. John Cornyn in November and try to shift Texas to Democrats.

Posted on July 14, 2020, at 10:38 p.m. ET

Eric Gay / AP

MJ Hegar speaks to supporters during her election night party in Austin, March 3.

MJ Hegar will go up against Sen. John Cornyn and attempt to win Texas Democrats their first Senate seat in decades after winning a contentious runoff election on Tuesday.

Hegar, an Air Force veteran and former healthcare worker, garnered national Democratic support early on in the primary race from groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She was significantly ahead of her competitors in fundraising during the campaign.

In the Tuesday runoff, Hegar beat state Sen. Royce West, who had been in office since the early '90s.

She campaigned on being a “kickass working mom” who can “get shit done,” and spoke about her experience as an outsider in DC advocating for women to have combat roles in the military.

Hegar narrowly lost a House race in 2018 to Republican Rep. John Carter.

The runoff became heated after a debate in Austin in which Hegar accused West of being a corrupt political insider and West accused Hegar of attacking his integrity as a successful Black man. The two candidates ran on relatively centrist platforms, compared to other more progressive candidates who were knocked out in the initial March primary.

Democrats hope to flip the seat as momentum for their party builds in Texas: Several local and federal seats have turned blue in recent years, and Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in some state polls. They also hope to consolidate gains made in suburban Texas and among young voters by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke in his close 2018 Senate run against Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cornyn’s approval rating has slipped a few points in the past six months, but he is still considered by national election analysts to have a significant advantage in the race.

Hegar is likely to make an appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, especially in the suburbs of Texas’s big cities. The Texas Democratic Party, confident of national investment shoring up those areas, is working on turning out Latino voters in the Rio Grande Valley, an area where O’Rourke underperformed in 2016.


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