A blue wave is coming to Texas and Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar is at the its front. This Air Force veteran, Purple Heart winner, author, and mom wants to bring real change to Texas, and she makes a formidable candidate.
While Hegar has never held elected office, her experience as a veteran, including a rescue mission in Afghanistan during which she was shot down, shows her ability to perform under pressure. Her 2018 run for Congress featured a campaign ad (below) detailing how Hegar never let any doors stand in her way; not to becoming a fighter pilot or to women working in ground combat positions or to taking on an incumbent congressmember.
Fixing a Broken System
Trump promised Texas a wall along the US-Mexican border, but Hegar actually wants to fix a broken system. In Texas immigration is a much more relevant local issue, and the border wall is actually quite unpopular in Texas. Politicians on both sides see it as expensive, unnecessary, and in some cases, dangerous. For example Republican Congressman Will Hurd pointed out that a border wall is one of the least effective ways to secure the US border and would require legal action to seize land from Texan residents. In fact, in Laredo, a border town, opposition to construction of the wall has made for strange allies: nuns, wealthy Republicans, border agents, and Native Americans.
Hegar’s platform on immigration includes addressing real problems affecting Texans, such as ending child separations, treating asylum seekers fairly, stopping land seizures, and creating a path to citizenship. She also wants to see a reduction in the hateful rhetoric coming from the GOP. “I feel like a lot of people have forgotten that one of the things we fought for when we were forming our country was that we have a right to the pursuit of happiness and that is something that we have to absolutely recognize and respect in everybody,” she said.
A Need for Leadership
While the nation is in crisis, Hegar’s opponent, Sen. John Cornyn, has been asleep at the wheel. Even though Trump has seen declining popularity, Cornyn seemed to be largely immune. He was framing himself as a steady hand on the wheel, a centrist Republican.
But then 2020 happened. In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, Cornyn questioned the very existence of systemic racism. And Cornyn has always demonstrated he sides with Trump over Texans. He supported Trump through impeachment. He joined with other Republicans who said that Trump should fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, even though he was vocal when it came to Obama and Merrick Garland.
And as Covid-19 swept the nation, hitting Texas particularly hard, Cornyn was reluctant to call for a mask mandate and never waiver from his support of the Trump Administration’s suit to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, but the need for access to health care is even greater during a pandemic. According to Hegar, “Even people who might agree with some of Trump’s policies don’t like the way that Cornyn has become just a lapdog for him.”
While unsuccessful in her 2018 run, Hegar is on track to win her 2020 Senate campaign. Back in June, Cornyn was leading by thirteen points. The most recent poll, from Oct. 3–6, shows he is only one point ahead. This race is part of a larger blue wave coming to Texas; Biden and several key Democratic congressional candidates all seem to be extremely close to their opponents.
Even with all the momentum, Hegar and the Democrats are still going to need to deal with voter suppression in Texas. Despite being overwhelmingly qualified, the Republicans in Texas decided to frame Hegar as a radical due to her tattoos—which cover up her combat wounds— instead of actually engaging with her platform positions. But she has been unphased by such pointless, desperate attacks. “Texans see right through this BS. . . .” Hegar said. “I’m damn proud of my tattoos because they’re a mark of my service to our country”
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