MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid

MJ Hegar, the Air Force veteran who narrowly lost a 2018 House bid against Rep. John CarterJohn Rice CarterHouse panel advances bill to block military construction funds for border wall New group aims to support female veteran Democratic candidates Joaquin Castro won't run for Senate in Texas MORE (R-Texas), announced Tuesday that she will challenge Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (R-Texas) for his seat in 2020.

“Texans deserve a senator who represents our values: strength, courage, independence, putting Texas first,” Hegar said in a video announcing her Senate bid that included a cameo appearance by comedian Patton Oswalt.

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Hegar’s entrance into the race sets up the potential for a bruising Democratic primary.

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin Castro Dems brush off unemployment rate, say Hispanics will reject Trump in 2020 Lawmakers renew push to create American Latino Smithsonian museum Joaquin Castro won't run for Senate in Texas MORE (D-Texas) is also seriously considering a Senate run in 2020, and, like Hegar, has prominent Democrats backing him.

Democrats have long eyed Texas as a potential battleground, pointing to signs that the longtime reliably red state has begun to trend toward flipping to blue in recent years.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE carried the state by 9 points in 2016, down from Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems Dem senator: Many Republicans 'privately expressed concerns' about Mueller findings Romney expresses opposition to Alabama abortion ban MORE’s nearly 16-point win in 2012.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s (D-Texas) 2-point loss to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz slams Jim Carrey's 'vicious, angry' painting of Alabama governor after abortion ban Eye-popping number of Dems: I can beat Trump 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults MORE (R-Texas) last year energized the Democratic Party even further, prompting them to set their sights on Cornyn, the former Senate majority whip.

Hegar’s Senate announcement has been in the works for weeks.

After O’Rourke, who is now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, announced that he would not mount a bid for Senate in 2020, Hegar met with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D-N.Y.), a strong sign that she was considering a challenge to Cornyn.

And just this week, Hegar posted a since-deleted tweet that included a photo of Cornyn’s Senate office.

Hegar became a top-tier contender for the Senate after she came within 3 points of ousting Carter in Texas's 31st District last year — a district that Trump carried by nearly 13 points in 2016.

Republicans immediately took aim at Hegar, denouncing her as Schumer’s hand-picked candidate.

“New York liberal Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE found his chosen candidate in MJ Hegar,” Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. “Hollywood Hegar’s support for late-term abortion and government-run health care will play better with progressive Hollywood celebrities than with mainstream Texans.”

Cornyn’s campaign manager, John Jackson, suggested that Hegar’s announcement was a sign that Schumer had managed to shut down Castro’s Senate ambitions.

“It appears Chuck Schumer was able to push Joaquin Castro out of the race, and we’ll see if he has the same success with Councilwoman Edwards,” he said, referring to Amanda Edwards, a Houston city council member who is also considering a run for the Senate seat.

--Updated at 10:49 a.m.