Republican Sen. John Cornyn won reelection Tuesday night in Texas, beating Democratic challenger MJ Hegar in a race that grew competitive toward the end but saw Cornyn steer clear of trouble in the state.
Democrats have spoken of flipping once-solid-red Texas for a generation, but the state somewhat suddenly became contested territory under President Donald Trump, with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz hanging on by less than 3 points in 2018 as Texas’ diverse suburbs swung hard against the Republican Party.
Hegar, an Air Force combat veteran who narrowly lost to GOP Rep. John Carter in 2018, pitched herself as an outsider and a contrast against Cornyn’s 18 years in Washington. Cornyn leaned on his long Republican record in the state and courted Black voters, in particular, with ads attacking Hegar for not securing the endorsement of her primary opponent, state Sen. Royce West.
Cornyn sought to connect Hegar to Democratic plans to rein in fossil fuel production and reform police departments, and he tied her to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in arguing she wanted to “make Texas more like California and New York.”
Hegar was running behind in the polling averages leading up to Election Day, but Democrats closed strong in races throughout the state, including a number of congressional and state legislative battlegrounds. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden were running neck and neck over the past month.
Hegar got a late boost from online donors, who poured money into her campaign in the final months, and from Senate Majority PAC, which went into Texas late with ads attacking Cornyn on health care.
Neither Trump nor Biden visited Texas during the campaign, although the state saw record early voting turnout. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, traveled there Oct. 30, but Trump and Vice President Mike Pence stayed clear entirely, insisting it wasn’t in play. “Texas is not a battleground state,” said former Energy Secretary and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Cornyn did try to seek some distance from Trump in the latter stages of the campaign, criticizing his rhetorical style before the election. “There’s just not any discipline,” Cornyn said. “I mean the president’s got a great record to run on. But we don’t hear too much about it. And I just think that’s a mistake.”
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