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Purple Heart vet takes on McConnell's top lackey in Texas Senate race

MJ Hegar, a barrier-breaking female helicopter pilot in the Air Force, will try to kick Mitch McConnell’s right-hand man out of the Senate in 2020.

By Emily Singer - April 23, 2019
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MJ Hegar

Texas’ 2020 Senate race is gearing up to be a blockbuster contest, now that Democrat MJ Hegar — an Air Force helicopter pilot who won a Purple Heart for her service — has announced she’s entering the race to take on incumbent GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

Hegar made her announcement in a video that lays out her reasoning for entering the Senate race.

“Washington still has a lot of listening to do, and I’m going to make sure they hear us,” Hegar says in the ad. “Texans deserve a senator who represents our values: strength, courage, independence, putting Texans first.”

Hegar’s new ad also reminds voters of the viral ad that ran as part of her bid for a Texas House seat in 2018, which drew national attention for the engaging story it told about her Hegar’s military service and her fight to open doors for women in the military.

“People didn’t just watch the video,” Hegar says in the new ad. “They sprang into action, and we got to work.”

Republicans were already girding for a fight. Even Cornyn — who, as majority whip, serves as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s No. 2 — admitted that his reelection bid could be “in trouble.”

But Hegar’s entrance raises the stakes, as she’s a top Democratic recruit in the rapidly changing Lone Star State.

When Hegar ran for Congress in 2018, she nearly defeated a longtime Republican incumbent in a district that Trump carried by 13 points in 2016.

The statewide margins in Texas were closer than that in 2016, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 9 points. And Democrat Beto O’Rourke nearly won his Senate race against Ted Cruz in 2018.

In the ad announcing her bid, Hegar contrasted herself with Cornyn, a career politician who’s been in the Senate since 2002 and who votes with Trump 95.8 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. That could be a weakness for Cornyn in Texas, as Trump has seen his approval rating there plummet by 16 points since he took office, according to Morning Consult.

Hegar says that unlike Cornyn, she will protect people with pre-existing health conditions and fight the Senate gridlock that McConnell has orchestrated.

“For those of you who don’t know Sen. John Cornyn, he’s that tall guy lurching behind Mitch McConnell in basically every single video,” Hegar says. “He calls himself Big John, but he shrinks out of the way while Mitch McConnell gets in the way of anything actually getting done in our government.”

Democrats haven’t won a Senate seat in Texas since 1988. But Hegar is a serious contender who has a shot of breaking that streak in 2020, more than 30 years later.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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