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MJ Hegar Wins Democratic Nomination For U.S. Senate, GOP Runoff For District 23 Too Close To Call

MJ Hegar participates in a debate in February with other candidates running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
MJ Hegar participates in a debate in February with other candidates running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

MJ Hegar closely defeated State Sen. Royce West in the race to become the Democratic nominee against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Hegar declared victory on Twitter, but West said some votes are still uncounted. He said he will release a statement Wednesday morning. 

As of early Wednesday morning, the Texas Secretary of State website showed all polling locations reporting; Hegar won 52% of the votes.

Made with Flourish

That means Hegar, a former Air Force pilot from Round Rock, is slated to challenge Republican incumbent John Cornyn in November. Cornyn was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002.

The race was fairly close throughout most of the night, even though Hegar had a sizeable lead during the March primary.

West told reporters he thought his support started to grow ahead of the runoff following protests against racism and police brutality across the country. He said voters took note of his “track record” on these issues.

If elected, West would have become the first Black person elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas at a time of a racial reckoning in the U.S.

West said money ultimately played an important role in the election, however.

Hegar out-fundraised and outspent West throughout the campaign. She also received backing from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which West said tipped the scales in her favor.

“Every time I turned the television on I saw MJ Hegar,” West said. “So, she ran a pretty robust and effective ad campaign. She had millions to do it.”

Hegar has argued, however, that the endorsement came only after her campaign “had raised millions of dollars.”

On Tuesday night she told reporters she should have been the underdog.

“I am just a combat veteran and a working mom,” she said. “My ability to connect with people because I am a regular working Texas mom has really pushed us to this point.”

Hegar began receiving national attention during her run for Congress in 2018. That year, a wave of women ran for public office following the Me Too movement. Hegar ended up losing to Republican incumbent John Carter by less than 3 percentage points in the election. In 2016, Carter had won his by more than 20 points.

In the months to come, Hegar said she plans on focusing on Cornyn’s failures – particularly those made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This pandemic – and the economic and the public health crisis – have really highlighted the leadership failures of people like John Cornyn,” Hegar said. “We are not going to be back to normal by Election Day, so I think this is going to impact how we continue campaigning.”

If elected in the fall, Hegar would become only the second woman to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. Kay Bailey Hutchison was the first.

Congressional District 23, Republican Runoff

Two Republicans are fighting for a chance to defeat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones and represent the expansive 23rd Congressional District, which spans from San Antonio to El Paso.

As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, the hotly contested race between Tony Gonzales and Raul Reyes was too close to call. The race was within seven votes, with Gonzalez in the lead.

Tony Gonzales (L) and Raul Reyes (R)
Tony Gonzalez (L) and Raul Reyes (R)

Gonzales was endorsed by President Donald Trump.  Sen. Ted Cruz surprised many by throwing his support behind GOP underdog Reyes.

The Trump campaign sent Reyes a cease and desist letter over what they called a misleading mailer sent out by the Reyes campaign, which featured a picture of Trump.

Both candidates have a military background. Gonzales is a former Navy cryptologist, and Reyes is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

Whoever wins faces Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones in November. The incumbent, Republican Will Hurd, announced last year he wouldn't be seeking a fourth term. In 2018, Ortiz Jones narrowly lost to Hurd.

State Senate, District 19, Democratic Runoff

State Rep and former San Antonio City Councilman Roland Gutierrez beat Xochil Peña Rodriguez with 52.7% of votes. Gutierrez first ran for Senate District 19 seat in a 2018 special election, but did not secure enough votes for the runoff election back then. Now with the democratic nomination in 2020, Gutierrez said he wants to unseat Republican State Senator Pete Flores who ultimately won that special election. 

Roland Gutierrez (L) and Xochil Peña Rodriguez (R)

“You're going to have a November election with Donald Trump on the ballot, and I think that it’s just not going to go well for Mr. Flores especially when he’s supportive of every Trump administration agenda item.”

The district is one of the largest State Senate seats in Texas, representing 17 counties from San Antonio to the Texas-Mexico border. It had been a reliably democratic seat for decades until the 2018 special election. 

State Board of Education, District 5, Republican Runoff

The Republican Primary runoff for State Board of Education District 5 pit San Antonio educator Lani Popp against an Austin man with a history of making crude, racist and sexist statements.

Popp, a speech pathologist in the Northside school district, swept Robert Morrow with about 75% of the vote as of midnight on Wednesday morning.

The Texas State Board of Education is responsible for approving the state’s public school curriculum.

According to The Texas Tribune, all nine Republicans on the state board have endorsed Popp, including outgoing District 5 Republican Ken Mercer.

District 5 represents the Hill Country and the counties between San Antonio and Austin, including parts of Bexar and Travis counties.

Find more results below from the Texas Tribune.