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Candidate Forum: Hegar Up Against Longtime GOP Incumbent Cornyn To Represent Texas In The US Senate

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Democrat MJ Hegar (left) will face Republican incumbent John Cornyn to represent Texas on the U.S. Senate.
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Democrat MJ Hegar (left) will face Republican incumbent John Cornyn to represent Texas on the U.S. Senate.

Three-term Republican incumbent John Cornyn is fighting to retain his seat representing Texas in the United States Senate in a closer-than-expected 2020 race against Democratic candidate MJ Hegar.

Cornyn, an attorney, was first elected to the seat in 2002. He sits on three powerful Senate committees: Finance, Judiciary, and Intelligence. He's running for a fourth term on his record and as a stabilizing force in a turbulent time. Polls in the Lone Star State favor Cornyn, but the contest appears increasingly competitive.

Hegar is a former Air Force helicopter pilot and college lecturer who defeated Dallas State Sen. Royce West in the July runoff after a 12-way primary. The Afghan War veteran and political newcomer presents herself to voters as the choice to upend a political system that no longer serves the kaleidoscopic tapestry of today's Texas.

Cornyn’s campaign office did not answer repeated requests to participate in a candidate forum on “The Source.”

On the day of the show, the senator tweeted: “Sorry but we are working on the Amy Coney Barrett nomination to the SCOTUS” and linked to a campaign ad that compiled footage of Hegar cursing, saying “ask about this.”

“You know, it would be so great if he was so offended by the fumbled handling of this pandemic and how many Texans have lost their lives and their jobs as he is by my demeanor. I think we need more regular people to run for office, running for this type of office is largely inaccessible to regular folks,” Hegar said in response.

A big critique of Hegar’s campaign is her lack of experience in politics, but she said she doesn’t see that as an issue.

“We definitely need to send experienced people to DC. I think that we need, you know, people that have my type of experience serving our country, demonstrating servant leadership, working in health care. My five years in health care are invaluable. My experience facing the challenges that our legislators have been charged with finding solutions to will be invaluable,” Hegar said.

Hegar emphasized the importance of her background to her platform.

“I truly want people to think about who they think is going to fight for them, who has a shared experience with them, who shares their values. When I'm in rural Texas, I'm talking to folks about education and access to health care. The things we are fighting, for the things that our amazing slate of candidates up and down the ballot are fighting for are the things that impact regular Texans,” she said.

Editor’s note: TPR has a standing invitation for John Cornyn. While his campaign office replied to some of the many email requests from "The Source" producers, the campaign never responded with an answer to our invitation for this forum. Cornyn's senate office declined an interview on Texas Matters. We welcome Senator Cornyn on any TPR program to make his case to voters.

Early voting in Bexar County is Oct. 13-30. Election Day is Nov. 3. More info here.

Guest: MJ Hegar, Democratic candidate in Texas' U.S. Senate race

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Thursday, October 22.

Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon