The Democrat Minority Leader has found his candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in 2020: Air Force veteran and unsuccessful congressional candidate MJ Hegar.

Announcing her campaign via video this morning, Hegar has decidedly taken a play out of failed Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s playbook and is trying her hand at failing upward—even alluding to O’Rourke in her campaign’s announcement.

“Beto nearly won a Texas Senate seat and dropped the f-bomb on live TV,” Hegar says. “Talk about Texas making its voice heard.”

The video also downplays the loss Hegar took when she challenged U.S. Rep. John Carter, the Republican incumbent who defeated Hegar and won re-election to the Williamson County-based 31st Congressional District by 3 percentage points just last year.

“Here’s the thing: I didn’t win that election. But we won something much bigger,” says Hegar in her announcement. “We didn’t just close the gap in my district by almost 20 points, we helped change the status quo.”

Unable to ride the Beto wave to victory last year, Hegar now wants to elevate herself to the U.S. Senate, where incumbent Republican and former U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn has been making his initial hires and reported nearly $6 million in cash on hand.

Hegar is currently the first and only Democrat to announce a campaign in the Democrat primary, but several others have been mentioned to be mulling a run of their own, including Congressman Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, and failed congressional candidate Joseph Kopser who failed to defeat conservative Republican Chip Roy (TX-21) last fall in an open seat left behind by retiring congressman Lamar Smith.

Abortion activist Wendy Davis has already ruled out running for Cornyn’s seat and is instead considering challenging now-incumbent Roy.

Cornyn’s campaign wasted no time to hit back on Tuesday morning, noting Hegar’s popularity with out-of-state donors and among Hollywood elites, something she embraces unapologetically in her announcement video. Cornyn’s Twitter feed shot up a link to “The Official MJ Hegar Quiz,” found on Cornyn’s website, which said the following of the new Senate hopeful:

“65 percent of this candidate’s donations were from people who lived outside the Lone Star State, sending a clear message of ‘I don’t need you, Texas.’


Even more, this candidate enjoyed the support of Hollywood elites like Rosie O’Donnell and Natalie Portman.”

No Republicans have announced a primary challenge to Cornyn at this time. Cornyn locked up the endorsements of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick almost immediately following his announcement that he would be seeking re-election.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.


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