Tatted trailblazer M.J. Hegar announces Texas-sized challenge to sleepy Sen. John Cornyn

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The Big Story

Military veteran Mary Jennings “M.J.” Hegar of Round Rock, Tex. announced Tuesday she’s running for the U.S. Senate. Hegar, a Democrat, served three tours in Afghanistan as an Air Force helicopter pilot, earning a Purple Heart. 

“Washington still has a lot of listening to do, and I’m gonna make sure they hear us,” Hegar said in her announcement video. “Texans deserve a Senator who represents our values: strength, courage, independence, putting Texas first.”

Hegar successfully fought the U.S. military’s policy to open up all military jobs to women. Last year, she unsuccessfully ran for Congress, coming up short by three points in a Republican district.

Taking on Cornyn

Hegar is wasting no time taking on incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn.

 “A major source of John Cornyn’s campaign funding is the pharmaceutical industry,” Hegar wrote in an email last week to her supporters. “He’s taken more than $330,000 from Big Pharma – and in 2018, he voted against lower[ing] the cost of prescription drugs.”

After 17 years in his current job, many Texans still don’t know who Cornyn is. Polls (here) indicate he’s been a sleepy senator. And he’s less popular than Ted Cruz.

Cornyn has cozied up to President Trump, asking for and receiving his endorsement.

“Donald Trump is the best thing that has happened to the Texas Democratic Party in recent memory,” said Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University.

Before challenging Cornyn, Hegar may face a challenge in the Democratic primary. Democrat Amanda Edwards, a Houston city council member, is considering a U.S. Senate run.

Winning statewide is no longer a pipe dream

Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994, but following the 2018 elections, Texas is a swing state.

Republican Ted Cruz beat Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate by less than 3 points, perhaps a harbinger of the all-out political brawl awaiting Cornyn.  

Still, Cornyn has incumbent advantages, including having already raised $7 million in the first quarter of this year.

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