MJ Hegar and John Cornyn

This year's US Senate race in Texas isn't the barnburner that the 2018 contest between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke was. After losing by just 2.6 points to Cruz, O'Rourke decided to run for president, even though Yr Wonkette (OK, and darn near everyone else) kept yelling at him to run against incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn. But the Democratic nominee running against Cornyn, badass Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, is polling well against Cornyn, whom she calls "that tall guy lurching behind Mitch McConnell in basically every single video." While Texas isn't among the top GOP-held seats being targeted to flip the Senate, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's internal polling found the Hegar/Cornyn race close enough that the DSCC committed over a million dollars to Hegar's campaign earlier this month.

On top of that, while Donald Trump has plenty of support in Texas, it's not the absolute lock it had been for him in 2016; polling has shown Biden very close to Trump, and a Public Policy Polling survey after the Democratic convention showed Biden with a one-point lead over Trump. If there's a strong enough turnout for Biden in November, Cornyn may be a goner, too.


Apart from missing O'Rourke's media draw and fundraising, there's another big reason Cornyn's bid for a fourth Senate term isn't getting the attention that the 2018 Senate race did. Cornyn is just plain no Ted Cruz. That cuts a couple of ways: He can't rely on the fanatical devotion from rightwingers that Cruz did, so enthusiasm for Cornyn is muted. But since Cornyn isn't nearly the inflammatory asshole Cruz is, Democrats don't react to him with the visceral disgust Cruz evokes, which means folks may be less likely to say "I gotta give money to anyone running against that asshole."

Trust us, Cornyn is quite the asshole in his own right.

He votes 95 percent of the time with Trump, and he has a real talent for saying incredibly dumb things, like earlier this summer during Senate debate on the GOP's "police reform" bill that didn't reform a damn thing (it would have withheld some federal funding to departments that didn't adopt body cameras). Rs had included Senate Dem's bill that (finally) banned lynching, and Cornyn claimed he was shocked, shocked, that Dems were "blocking their own lynching bill." Kamala Harris wasn't having a bit of that nonsense:

Kamala Harris schools John Cornyn on police reform youtu.be

I think it's important we not get distracted. We cannot pull out a specific component of this bill and leave everything else in the garbage bin. And that is the logical and practical and actual conclusion of where you are going with the suggestion that we would sacrifice issues like no-knock warrants, issues like national standard for use of force, issues like the need for independent investigations for police misconduct, issues like pattern and practice investigations with subpoena power for the United States Department of Justice ... It's like asking a mother, save one of your children and leave the others!

Going back in Wonkette history, which really is the best history, we'd like to remind you that back in 2008, when Cornyn was launching his first bid for reelection, his staff put together this embarrassingly stupid ad for the Texas state GOP convention, portraying Cornyn as a great cowboy hero, a weird image for a guy who before the Senate had been a lawyer, a judge, and Texas AG, jobs that don't involve much cow-punching.

Oh, those lyrics:

He came down off the bench after doing his time.
He fought heathens and all kinds of crime.
He was just getting started and a long ways to go.
We sent him to Washington to the really big show.
[...]
We'll call folk, We'll hustle, We'll outwork our foe.
We'll tell souls in Texas you must get six mo'

After being roundly mocked for the ad, Cornyn explained it was supposed to be funny, but not that way, and that "My staff convinced me it would be a good idea. Maybe I need a new staff." It was a rare good line from a senator the Texas Observer said is "blessed with the bearing and charisma of a tax attorney."

Yet as a traditional "establishment" conservative, Cornyn has also had problems getting the sort of rightwing enthusiasm that wins automatic support from the wingnuts who elected Trump. In 2009, he even got booed, heckled, and called a "traitor" by Tea Partiers after he'd cautiously criticized the "tone" of attacks by Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, who'd called then-SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" after she said the Court could use the perspective of a "wise Latina."

Since Trump and his deplorables have fully taken over, Cornyn has tried to adopt a more Trumpian tone himself, which often just makes him look like he's grasping. He made a fool of himself in April when his Twitter account tried to suggest that Hegar would be dangerous for America because she'd been supported by Patton Oswalt. Yup, if you really want to go after an opponent, dredge up old tweets from a comedian who has said nice things about her. Heavens, a comedian used dirty words on the internet?

That's not even very good culture warring, sorry. Thank goodness Republicans don't believe in "cancel culture" or it would almost look like a clumsy attempt to tar Hegar with supposedly offensive things a completely different person said.

Cornyn (or whoever runs his Twitter account) may be offended by vulgarity, but he has no problem with a bit of casual racism in his own statements. Back in March, he explained that Chinese "cultural practices" were the reason for the coronavirus, claiming Chinese people are weird and that's why they spread disease, the dirty weirdos:

People eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that. These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people, and that's why China has been the source of a lot of these viruses.

After being criticized for the stereotypes, Cornyn doubled down and said he didn't see why any Asian-Americans would be offended, since he only meant those Chineses in China:

We're not talking about Asians. We're talking about China, where these viruses emanate from, which … created this pandemic.

While he was at it, Cornyn also blamed China for the spread of viruses that actually originated in other countries, because why not just pile on with the stupid?

Still, with his Senate seniority and the fundraising clout that comes with it, Cornyn has an assload of money with which to run stupid ads all over Texas, where there are multiple large, pricey media markets.

For all that, a July Quinnipiac poll had Hegar down by just nine points, even before she won the July 15 Democratic primary runoff against state Senator Royce West. Cornyn had tried a little ratfucking in the primary, running ads calling West "too liberal" for Texas. It was an unsuccessful ploy that attempted to recycle Claire McCaskill's 2012 ad calling Todd Akin "too conservative for Missouri," which maybe proves Democratic voters are less likely to take voting advice from a GOP incumbent.

Royce quickly pledged to support Hegar and do the party unity thing, and Hegar hopes she can hang Trump and his agenda around Cornyn's neck. After the primary, Hegar called Cornyn a "lackey and a spineless bootlicker" for Trump and for Mitch McConnell, and pointed out, correctly, Cornyn's attempts to paint her as a dangerous liberal seemed a tad desperate:

He in the primary tried to tell people I was too far right [...] Now, he's trying to tell people I'm too far left — and the poor guy can't decide which messaging to go with.

Mary Jennings Hegar made a big splash in national politics with her brilliantly-made 2018 ad "Doors," which called attention to her for-real heroism as an Air Force Medevac helicopter pilot in Afghanistan. On a rescue mission, the chopper she piloted was hit with ground fire and crashed, and after she and the troops she'd rescued were picked up by Army helicopters, she returned fire on Taliban fighters while she was strapped to a stretcher on the chopper's skids. It's still a hell of a short film, with a compelling narrative, seamless editing, and a soundtrack that hints just enough at "Gimme Shelter" to avoid a copyright suit.

MJ Hegar - Doors youtu.be


Unable to return to piloting choppers, Hegar lobbied Congress and sued the Pentagon over its policy barring women from direct combat duty, and ultimately the Obama administration threw out the decades-old rule. And then she ran against Rep. John Carter, the Republican congressman who hadn't found time to listen to her when she was pushing for change. She fell short, losing to Carter by a Beto-esque three points, but got national attention and credibility for a 2020 run. She nodded to that ad in her 2020 ad titled "(Re)Introduction," which also included clips of Cornyn's dumb "Big John" ad from 12 years ago. We kind of love that her media team would poke Cornyn like that; we're sure it was good for laughs among longtime followers of Texas politics.

(Re)Introduction | MJ For Texas youtu.be

On the issues, Hegar is a solid red-state Democrat: she's campaigning on healthcare, but framing that in terms of rescuing the ACA and adding a public Medicare option, not Medicare for all. She wants to see Roe v. Wade codified in federal law so it will be less subject to judicial caprice and state fuckery. On immigration, she calls for rolling back the Trump administration's wanton cruelty, and wants white supremacist attacks to be prosecuted as terrorism. She supports green energy, noting that Texas is already becoming a leader in wind and solar power generation. And in gun-crazy Texas, where there have been far too many massacres, she's calling not only for the usual stuff like universal background checks, but for state and local government to end open carry. That's gutsy.

She also thinks it might be fun to work with Ted Cruz in the Senate.

"I gotta tell you, I'm really looking forward to seeing him in the Senate dining hall and grabbing my tray and saying, 'Hey, Ted, how's it going? Let's talk about immigration reform. Hey, we still got kids in cages. Hey, how about that one out of every five Texans doesn't have health insurance?'" Hegar said. "He's gonna be like 'Oh, my God, can I just eat my lunch in peace?'"

She said she has seen Cruz work collaboratively in the past if he believes it benefits the state, and she would leverage that to work together.

"We'll see if he runs for reelection again after four years of eating lunch with me," she added.

To win, Hegar will need a lot of things to come together: The Biden campaign is spending heavily in Texas, and strong turnout among Hispanic and Black voters would help her considerably. And Cornyn has to decide how to play his relationship with Trump: if he attempts to distance himself from the top of the ticket in an attempt to win over suburban white women, that's likely to piss off rural Trump supporters, who mostly support Cornyn solely because of the "R" after his name, not out of any particular love for the senator. Remember those tea party boos.

And yeah, it's also going to come down to money, too. Cornyn has a huge war chest, but Hegar is one of those underdogs who's within distance of winning in this insanely unpredictable election year. Send her a few bucks if you can!

[Dallas Morning News / Texas Tribune / Texas Observer / Corpus Christi Caller Times / Texas Tribune / MJ Hegar for US Senate / Photos: MJ Hegar, Gage Skidmore; Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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