MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid

MJ Hegar, the Air Force veteran who narrowly lost a 2018 House bid against Rep. John CarterJohn Rice CarterOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families America's workers and small business owners need the SECURE Act Cornyn faces toughest race yet in changing Texas MORE (R-Texas), announced Tuesday that she will challenge Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters 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 CastroHillicon Valley: Google to limit political ad targeting | Senators scrutinize self-driving car safety | Trump to 'look at' Apple tariff exemption | Progressive lawmakers call for surveillance reforms | House panel advances telecom bills Minority lawmakers call out Google for hiring former Trump DHS official Castro tweaks brother's beard: 'If I knew it'd look like that I wouldn't have suggested it' 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 TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE carried the state by 9 points in 2016, down from Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump FDA pick dodges questions on Trump's flavored vape ban Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping Progressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity 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 CruzLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death 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 SchumerTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures 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 SchumerTensions rise in Senate's legislative 'graveyard' 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures 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.