MJ Hegar claimed victory in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s runoff election against state Sen. Royce West of Dallas.
“I am humbled by the support we have received from all across the state, and am confident we have a decisive victory,” Hegar said in a statement Tuesday night before the race was called. “Together, we are mounting a Texas-sized winning campaign that will take down Senator Cornyn and deliver real results on health care, racial justice, economic opportunity, climate change, immigration, and gun violence.”
Earlier in the evening, though, West said he would revisit election results in the morning.
“Still many boxes out in urban centers,” he said on Twitter. “Thank you to all my supporters, my campaign staff, my wife, and my family for staying up late tonight. We will evaluate the vote totals again in the morning.”
The Associated Press called the race around 11:30 p.m. The vote totals won’t be official until later this week.
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.