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Government/Politics

Texas Results: John Cornyn Defeats MJ Hegar In U.S. Senate Race; Congressional Districts 21 And 23 Remain Republican

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Texas Public Radio

Reported by KERA's Bret Jaspers

Texas’ senior U.S. Senator, Republican John Cornyn, wins a fourth term over Democrat M.J. Hegar, a decorated Air Force veteran.

At about 8:50 p.m., Hegar issued a statement on the election's results.

"I’m not a career politician, running for U.S. Senate was never my plan. I’m just one of the millions of Texans who saw the world we’re giving our children and thought ‘hell no.’" Hegar said in an email.

"Together, we stood up and got to work, building a powerful grassroots campaign from the ground up, shattering voter turnout records, and most importantly sending a message to a previously safe Senator that he answers to us," she added. "I am confident that the work we did will move our state forward for years to come."

This was Cornyn's toughest reelection contest since he first elected to the Senate in 2002. A conservative favoring business interests, Cornyn has voted with President Trump 95% of the time over the past few years, including a vote to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial.

Cornyn started the campaign with a large amount of money, although Hegar outraised him in the last full quarter. Advertising picked up as well in the last few weeks, and the race went from 10th in TV ad spending among U.S. Senate races to fifth.

Despite Cornyn's long career holding statewide office, a recent University of Texas poll asking registered voters to rate Cornyn’s job performance found that 22% either didn’t know or were neutral.

Hegar first gained attention for suing the Department of Defense over its official policy barring women from serving in direct ground combat roles. In 2018, she lost a close race in a conservative congressional district north of Austin. Hegar ran on her biography and what she called a “servant leader” approach that would defend the Constitution and find policy solutions for regular people.

As of mid-October, these candidates had not raised as much money as the 2018 Senate contest, although outside Super PAC spending was much higher this year. While Open Secrets reported Cornyn has raised more than Hegar, she made up ground down the stretch.

Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Texas since 1988 and won’t get an opportunity again until 2024.

Congressional District 20: Joaquin Castro (D) Wins

Congressman Joaquin Castro defended his seat against Republican Mauro Garza. Castro had 64.9% of the vote as of early Wednesday morning.

Castro is in his fourth term in Congress and chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He is a former state representative. His twin brother is former San Antonio mayor and former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.

TX-20 sits directly on San Antonio’s heavily Hispanic West Side and has been a Democratic stronghold for decades.

Congressional District 21: Chip Roy (R) Wins

Republican incumbent Chip Roy won his race against Democrat challenger Wendy Davis with about 51% of the vote as of early Wednesday morning.

Davis is former state representative known for her nearly 11 hour filibuster in Austin in 2013 to protect abortion rights, as well as her unambiguous defeat in the governor’s race the next year. She lost to Greg Abbott by 20 percentage points.

Chip Roy is a former chief of staff for Republican Senator Ted Cruz and an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, but he also tried to position himself as something of an independent.

Congressional District 23: Tony Gonzalez (R) Wins

Republican Tony Gonzales captured the seat for Congressional District 23.

Ortiz Jones conceded on Wednesday morning.

This was Ortiz Jones' second bid for the district.

She narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Will Hurd in 2018. Hurd did not seek re-election this year.

The expansive 23rd district has been a swing district over the years, and it stretches from San Antonio to just outside El Paso.

Congressional District 28: Henry Cuellar (D) Wins

Longtime Congressman Henry Cuellar defended his seat against several challengers. As of early Wednesday morning, he was winning with 55.6% of the vote.

The self-described “moderate conservative” Democrat said his priorities will be protecting local jobs, increasing access to health care, lowering prescription drug prices and stopping President Donald Trump’s border wall.

The Laredo Democrat acknowledged his lead over Republican Sandra Whitten was narrower than expected.

He attributed it to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s slimmer victories in the historically Democratic Webb and Rio Grande Valley counties.

"Mr. Trump did a lot better than he expected. I saw that in a lot of the counties I had," Cuellar said. "so certainly that was a help to other Republicans."

Congressional District 28 is a large district that stretches from Laredo and Webb County into San Antonio's East Side and Bexar County. Cuellar scored a decisive victory in 2018.

Congressional District 35: Lloyd Doggett (D) Wins

Democratic Incumbent Lloyd Doggett won his district against Jenny Garcia Sharon (R). As of early Wednesday morning, Doggett had 65.4% of the vote.

TX-35 lives up to is name by being a long and narrow district that runs up the Interstate 35 corridor from East San Antonio to East Austin and encompasses parts of Comal, Hays and other counties.

Doggett has represented the district, which has grown bluer, since its creation in 2013. More than 70% of voters reelected Doggett in 2018.

Senate District 19: Too Close To Call

As of early Wednesday morning, Democrat Roland Gutierrez was leading with 62.3% of the vote over GOP incumbent Pete Flores in the battle for Texas Senate District 19, which stretches from southern San Antonio into West Texas and down to the border.

Gutierrez told TPR’s David Martin Davies that the seat would give Democrats more offset power in the Senate.

"This is an opportunity for us to really make a difference in the Senate," he said. "You know, obviously, when we lost the seat, Lt. Gov. (Dan) Patrick was able to essentially write his own ticket... And so getting this back serves as a blocker for any negative legislation, such as the bathroom bill and other kind of partisan nonsense that we really don't want to see."

During his campaign, Gutierrez pushed a plan to fill a multibillion-dollar gap in education funding that Texas faces over the next two years by legalizing cannabis.

He also supports emission reductions, restoration of the motor fuel tax to improve road infrastructure, and expansion of the eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, among other things.

Senate District 21: Too Close To Call

Incumbent Democrat Judith Zaffirini led her challenging Republican Frank Pomeroy with about 57% of the vote as of early Wednesday morning.

Both were unopposed in the March primaries, and Pomeroy is a political newcomer. He is longtime senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed in a shooting in 2017. He said he was motivated to run for office in part by the political discourse following recent mass shootings in Texas.

If Pomeroy wins, the conservative said he would focus on protecting gun rights, lowering property taxes and reopening the economy. He said he believed people shouldn’t be forced to wear face masks. His campaign also focused on religious liberty and opposing abortion and illegal immigration.

If Zaffirini wins, she said her main focus would be the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and supporting workers, businesses and schools while also upholding public measures like wearing face masks. Her campaign this election also focused on expanding access to health care, adding and improving jobs, protecting the environment and relocating Confederate monuments.

Texas Senate District 21 stretches from Webb County on the border through 18 counties all the way up to parts of Travis and Hays counties in Central Texas. Zaffirini was unopposed in 2016 and has easily defeated past opponents.

State Board of Education, District 5: Too Close To Call

Early Wednesday morning, Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau was leading with 49% of the vote. Republican Lani Popp had 47%, and Libertarian candidate Stephanie Berlin had 3.9% of the vote.

The State Board of Education is responsible for setting curriculum standards and selecting textbooks for Texas public schools. It also oversees the Texas Permanent School Fund and approves applications for new charter schools.

The State Board of Education seat represents the Hill Country, northern Bexar County and southern Travis County. It is open for the first time in 16 years.

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