Air Force veteran MJ Hegar ― a Texas Democrat who tried unsuccessfully to unseat Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) in 2018 ― has now set her sights higher, launching a campaign Tuesday morning to challenge three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in 2020.
In a four-minute video posted to social media, Hegar said the momentum she built with her last congressional campaign inspired her to continue her efforts to win public office. Even though she didn’t beat the eight-term Republican incumbent in Central Texas’ 31st Congressional District last fall, she only lost by around 3 percentage points.
“Unseating an entrenched incumbent senator is going to be tough, but I’ve faced worse odds in my life,” she wrote on Twitter alongside the campaign video, adding, “Saddle up, Texas. I’m in.”
Hegar ― tattooed, married and raising two young children ― attracted viral attention in 2018 for a campaign ad featuring her compelling personal story. She earned a Purple Heart after her military helicopter was shot down and later fought to loosen restrictions on women’s roles in the military. Hegar was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to feed the family. One of her first memories, she said, was her father throwing her mother through a glass door.
Her new campaign uses the same style as the one that garnered nearly 3 million views on YouTube to date. While most of it is devoted to introducing, or reintroducing, herself to a wider swath of Texans, she uses the final seconds to pounce on Cornyn.
“For those of you who don’t know Senator John Cornyn, he’s that tall guy lurking behind Mitch McConnell in basically every photo,” Hegar says in the video. “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.”
Cornyn won his last election, in 2014, with 62% of the vote. Last year, however, a “blue wave” of Democratic support challenged Republicans’ hold on the state.
In her 2018 campaign, Hegar focused her message on local issues such as veteran support and broadband internet access, but did not shy away from polarized national discussions. On guns, she favors “common sense” gun safety legislation but notes that she keep firearms in her home. She also favors marijuana legalization and public funding for Planned Parenthood.