EDINBURG, Texas – This year’s Texas Democratic Party candidate for U.S. Senate says she knows she has to make herself and her policies better known to voters.

M.J. Hegar, a U.S. Air Force veteran and teacher, was a guest on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC earlier this week.

O’Donnell noted that Hegar was inching closer to incumbent Senator John Cornyn in opinion polls. One poll has her within six points of Cornyn, a Republican who has held his seat for the past 18 years. O’Donnell quoted former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke as saying Democrats always under poll in Texas.

Asked how she can fully close the gap, Hegar said: “The more people learn about John Cornyn and his actual record, not his pretty words that he says he wants to support, but his actual voting record, the lower his approval rating goes and the better we get, the higher we go in the polls. But, frankly, people in Texas are not going to vote for me just because I am not John Cornyn. So, it is really important that I get out there.”

Although born in Connecticut, Hegar was raised in Cedar Park, Texas. 

“It is really important I get out there and talk to Texans about what my vision is for the state because I have built that vision through a lifetime of living in Texas and through campaigning in every corner of this state and talking to people who are facing the challenges of regular working everyday Texans,” Hegar said.

Hegar claimed her values are more closely aligned with everyday Texans than Cornyn. She said he has a “terrible” voting record, including voting against the Affordable Care Act on 20 occasions. 

“We feel strongly like we are going to be able to close the gap because there is still a huge undecided factor. Again I have to earn people’s vote here in Texas. They are not going to just vote for me because I am not him.”

There is a televised debate taking place between Cornyn and Hegar on Friday, Oct. 9. It takes place at 7 p.m. and will be moderated by KXAN-TV news anchors Robert Hadlock and Sally Hernandez, and Dallas Morning News political writer, Gromer Jeffers, Jr. In the Rio Grande Valley, the debate will be carried by Nexstar Media Group channels KGBT and KVEO.

Asked by O’Donnell if Texans knew about Cornyn’s voting record on the Affordable Care Act, Hegar said: “Texas has been the worst uninsured rate in the nation the entire time John Cornyn has been in office. So, you would think in 18 years in D.C. he would have done something to stand up for that and to get access to healthcare for his constituents.”

Hegar noted that one in five adult Texans lacked health insurance when the coronavirus struck.

“Now, in the middle of a healthcare crisis, we have one out of three working age adults that don’t have access to health insurance in the middle of a pandemic. So, yes, he (Cornyn) has voted over 20 times to tear down the Affordable Care Act,” Hegar said.

“People need to just pay attention to what is going on and I think that Texans are paying attention. Our access to healthcare is the number one thing that I hear about on the campaign trail and more and more Texans every day know John Cornyn is fighting to rip that (pre-existing condition) protection away.”

Valley support for Senator Cornyn

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn with supporters at a campaign event at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

Senator Cornyn was in the Valley recently for a campaign event that saw dozens of South Texas elected officials endorse him. The event was held at the Edinburg Conference at Renaissance. During the event, campaign staff provided reporters with a list of over 100 South Texas leaders who are backing him.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said although he is a hardcore Democrat, he is supporting Cornyn. 

“He has touched so many facets of our lives here in the city of Pharr, whether it be infrastructure, our bridge, whether it be border safety, educational safety, a great proponent for broadband, economic development, even for our police and fire department. He has touched it all,” Hernandez said of Cornyn.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said Cornyn was a regular visitor to the Valley.

“You are not only here election time, you are here all the time,” Darling said to Cornyn.

Darling said is always upfront with local elected officials. “We know when we can get something done, you tell us. And if it is not going to be, you tell us, here is another way of doing it. You never say no.”

Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell said Cornyn does not only represent Texas well, but also the nation. 

“I can tell you we are blessed to have Senator Cornyn in the United States Senate, not just as a leader for the State of Texas, but as a leader for this nation. His profound ability to work across the aisle and to work with many different people is a real comfort to me, just as a citizen of this country. To know that he is a force for reason and stability to deliver this nation forward,” Boswell said. 

Like Darling, Boswell said Cornyn visits the Valley often.

“He is here so often you don’t think of him as someone from out of town. We feel like he is our neighbor and our friend and we can always count on him.”

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