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Ginsburg's death could turn the tide in the Texas Senate race

John Cornyn’s Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, received an outpouring of financial support — and a coveted Obama endorsement — in the wake of Ginsburg’s death.

By Donna Provencher - September 28, 2020
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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Democratic opponent MJ Hegar’s tight Texas Senate race is anyone’s game after increased donations for Hegar — as well as an endorsement by former President Barack Obama — arrived following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death.

It all started last week, when Cornyn expressed his support for filling Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat immediately.

“I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will try to restrain themselves from repeating the smear campaign that took place during Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing,” he added.

Asked by CQ Roll Call last week whether he thought the Supreme Court vacancy would affect his own Senate race, Cornyn said it would be a “major factor.”

“But I can see it cutting both ways, in terms of people’s response,” he noted. “They seem pretty polarized already.”

With a hotly contested Supreme Court seat on the line, Texas Democrats and others have rallied around Air Force veteran and Purple Heart honoree Hegar with a renewed verve.

Speaking to Ginsburg’s death and the high court race, Texas Democratic consultant Sonia Van Meter told CQ Roll Call, “I see all of this really revving up the Democratic base but also appealing to suburban women who may have been conservative in the past but are not seeing any kind of reason to stay with the Republican Party.”

The facts don’t lie: Donation processing site Act Blue received more than $100 million in donations for Democratic candidates in the two days following Ginsburg’s death.

According to Hegar’s Senate campaign, Hegar was one of the major beneficiaries. The Democratic candidate from Round Rock, Texas, received more than 200,000 donations at that time, though campaign officials declined to give an exact dollar amount.

Billy Begala, a spokesman for the party’s “Cornyn War Room,” told the Austin-American Statesman that after Ginsburg’s death, Hegar’s campaign also saw an enormous uptick in both volunteers and small-dollar donations.

And, although Cornyn received endorsements last weekend from 100 south Texas leaders and elected officials, Hegar’s weekend saw an endorsement from a much more prominent source: Obama.

Hegar was one of 111 candidates named in Obama’s second wave of endorsements, and the only Texas candidate.

“I’m proud to endorse these outstanding Democratic candidates who will work to get the virus under control, rebuild the economy and the middle class, and protect Americans’ health care and preexisting conditions protections from Republican assault,” the former president said in a statement. “They’re dedicated to shoring up and strengthening our democracy, a project that’s going to take time and require all of us — but it begins by electing Democrats right now.”

On. Sept. 25, Hegar tweeted in response that she was proud to have Obama’s support in her efforts to “protect and expand … health care, restore our economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, and put power back in the hands of the people.”

“Texas is the biggest battleground state,” she added. “Let’s win.”

On Sunday, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro started a campaign on social media for Hegar to “turn Texas blue.” Dick Durbin (D-IL), and former congressman Beto O’Rourke — who narrowly lost a Senate race to incumbent Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterms — joined the efforts, resulting in Hegar raising $300,000 in 10 hours.

According to Data for Progress, Cornyn maintains a mere 2-point lead over Hegar, so it’s possible the death of Ginsburg and the SCOTUS tensions could upset the apple cart for the Republican incumbent. This is especially true considering 22% of voters identify as undecided in the Cornyn-Hegar race.

Hegar campaign spokesman Jake Lewis said that since Ginsburg’s passing, the campaign has “been humbled by the outpouring of support from people who want to ensure that [Ginsburg’s] legacy of fighting for equal rights and justice for all is continued.

“Texans know that on Nov. 3 preserving our health care is on the ballot, protecting women’s rights is on the ballot, defending voting rights is now on the ballot, which is why they are fired up and energized to send Sen. Cornyn packing,” he added.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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