Elections 2020GunsHealthcareIssuesMJ Hegar Leads in Field of Divided Democratic Senate Candidates

Hegar currently leads in fundraising and polls in the Senate Democratic primary race to challenge U.S. Senator John Cornyn.
November 5, 2019
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Of the ten Democrats who have filed to run for Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) seat, five have proven to be the top contenders by their third-quarter fundraising results: MJ Hegar, Amanda Edwards, Royce West, Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, and Chris Bell.

Hegar has emerged as the frontrunner, both in terms of fundraising and polling.

At the end of the last quarter, she reported raising a total of about $2 million dollars since she began her campaign earlier this year with a little under $900,000 on hand.

In a recent poll conducted by the University of Texas (UT) and the Texas Tribune, 12 percent of respondents said that they would vote for Hegar in the primary election on March 3, the most out of any candidate. The poll also revealed that 58 percent did not know or had not thought about the candidates enough to form an opinion.

Edwards and West have both raised over half a million dollars and both sat at five percent in the UT poll.

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Tzintzún Ramirez and Bell have raised $460,000 and $210,000, respectively. While Bell was at three percent in the UT poll, Tzintzún Ramirez did not receive any percentage. However, the poll as reported by The Texas Tribune lists Tzintzún Ramirez at four percent.

The UT poll also listed Sema Hernandez at six percent, though she has only raised $7,500.

While the leading Democratic candidates share many of the same political positions, they have diverged some on a few issues that have also defined the Democratic presidential primary race: impeachment, healthcare, and gun control.

During the Texas Tribune Festival, the five aforementioned candidates were asked about their views on impeachment.

Calling Cornyn a “waterboy for this disaster of a president,” Bell said that he has supported impeachment for a long time.

“We have to investigate all possible areas of the law where our president has acted in a criminal nature without the best interests at heart of the American people,” said Tzintzún Ramirez.

She has supported impeachment since at least February, when she called for it in a tweet.

West has also been straightforward in calling for impeachment, tweeting, “The evidence is right in front of us. We must impeach.”

Hegar and Edwards were more tempered in their responses, but applauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for launching an impeachment inquiry.

“I think it’s very important that we look at the facts and investigate the facts and that the spirit of law must be honored,” said Edwards. “Pelosi has taken the right course by pursuing this impeachment inquiry.”

“I’m not sure anybody should be saying they would vote for impeachment or would approve that without seeing the evidence,” said Hegar. “Until I see that evidence I think we have to be careful.”

On the issue of healthcare, the Senate candidates have diverged much like the Democrats running for president — some have argued for expanding Obamacare and Medicare, while others argued for a “Medicare for All” system that would completely abolish private health insurance providers.

Tzintzún Ramirez reportedly wants the latter, calling “Medicare for All” the “gold standard for ensuring that every American has comprehensive health care.”

Bell has similarly stated that he supports “Medicare for All,” but also noted that he wants a plan that will “allow a choice between private and public Medicare plans.”

Hegar argues for “a Medicare buy-in option for all those who want it,” and also wants to expand Obamacare and “ensure universal coverage for children.”

Edwards and West both support expanding Medicaid and Obamacare, but stop short of calling for a “Medicare for All” plan.

Perhaps the candidates have disagreed the most on gun control proposals.

While all of the top Democratic candidates support “red flag” laws and so-called “universal background checks,” there has been some sharp disagreement on Beto O’Rourke’s call for firearm confiscation.

In September, Hegar wrote an open letter to Cornyn wherein she called for the end of open-carry, ending “the sale of assault weapons to the public,” passing red flag laws, and increasing sentencing for straw purchasing.

But when it came to the so-called “mandatory buybacks” proposed by O’Rourke, Hegar said, “I’m not convinced that will be effective.”

Hegar has received criticism for her position from the other candidates, particularly Bell and Tzintzún Ramirez.

“I’m incredibly disappointed that my opponent, MJ Hegar, has rejected Beto O’Rourke’s proposal for a mandatory assault weapon buyback program [sic],” Bell stated in a video on Twitter. “I am 100 percent with Beto on this one.”

Likewise, Tzintzún Ramirez stated, “Without a mandatory buyback program, we’re leaving weapons of war in our communities. That’s a recipe for violence.”

West and Edwards support banning the sale of “assault weapons,” but think that there should only be a “voluntary buyback program.”

Edwards reportedly stated that a “voluntary buyback program offers a great starting point in terms of getting bipartisan support.”

With the issues of impeachment, healthcare, and gun control, the Democratic candidates are clearly appealing to different candidates.

Hegar, Edwards, and West are taking a more moderate approach, while Tzintzún Ramirez and Bell are appealing to a more progressive voting base.

After the primary election in March and the likely runoff in May, we’ll see which candidates reach their target audience and which miss their marks.

Update: Revisions were made to include the discrepancy between UT and the Texas Tribune on the reporting of poll numbers for Tzintzún Ramirez.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.