MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid

MJ Hegar, the Air Force veteran who narrowly lost a 2018 House bid against Rep. John CarterJohn Rice CarterGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 Democrats launch bilingual ad campaign off drug pricing bill Overnight 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 MORE (R-Texas), announced Tuesday that she will challenge Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP, Democrats hash out 2020 strategy at dueling retreats Congress eyes killing controversial surveillance program Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 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 CastroJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Harris, Castro introduce resolution condemning Trump aide Stephen Miller As Mexico abuses migrants under Trump's orders, where is Congress? 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 Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE carried the state by 9 points in 2016, down from Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPresident Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Conservative activist Charlie Kirk urges CPAC crowd to boo Romney The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence taps health official to aid coronavirus response 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 CruzThe Hill's Campaign Report: Sanders top target at CPAC Bloomberg campaign manager says they have considered naming running mate during primaries The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump on US coronavirus risks: 'We're very, very ready for this' 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 Schumer Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response Trump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report 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 Schumer Sanders blasts Trump for picking 'completely unqualified' Pence for coronavirus response Trump passes Pence a dangerous buck Democratic mega-donor reaching out to Pelosi, Schumer in bid to stop Sanders: report 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.