MJ Hegar, former congressional candidate, says she's running to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn

Texas Tribune News

Mary Jennings "MJ" Hegar.
Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar.

Former Democratic congressional candidate MJ Hegar is running for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, mounted a high-profile bid to unseat U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in November, fueled by attention-grabbing ads and massive fundraising. She ended up losing by less than 3 percentage points in the traditionally Republican district.

“Texans deserve a senator who represents our values, strength, courage, independence — putting Texas first,” Hegar said in an announcement video made in the style of her 2018 ads. “I didn’t get a pilot slot my first time trying. We Texans don’t give up easy, and everything we’ve accomplished is just the beginning.”

In the video, Hegar emphasizes Cornyn’s closeness with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Through last year, the Texan served as majority whip under McConnell.

“For those of you who don’t know Sen. John Cornyn, he’s that tall guy lurching behind Mitch McConnell in basically every single video,” Hegar said. “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.”

Responding to Hegar’s announcement, Cornyn’s campaign focused on the top Democrat in the Senate, calling Hegar “Chuck Schumer’s handpicked candidate.”

“Texans rejected her radical views once and they will again,” Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson said in a statement.

To take on Cornyn, Hegar could face a competitive primary with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, who has said he is considering a run and will make an announcement soon. Another Democratic elected official, Houston City Councilmember Amanda Edwards, has also said she is mulling a campaign.

Three mostly lesser-known Democrats are already running: Michael Cooper, Sema Hernandez and Adrian Ocegueda.