Battleground 2020Elections 2020FederalTexas Battleground: The Competition for Sen. John Cornyn’s Senate Seat Is Heating Up

Texans may have to brace themselves for another high-profile U.S. Senate race next year as the Democratic primary continues to grow.
August 19, 2019
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John Cornyn’s (R-TX) is running for his fourth term in the U.S. Senate next year as the field of competitors vying for his seat grows increasingly crowded. 

On Monday, Christina Tzintzún Ramirez, co-founder of the Workers Defense Project and founder of the Latino youth group, Jolt Texas, became the latest Democratic candidate with aspirations of displacing the incumbent Senator.

Beto O’Rourke’s narrow loss to Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas senate race last year created new hope for many Democratic candidates seeking to capitalize on what many see as a changing political landscape in Texas.

Along with Tzintzún Ramirez, the field is also comprised of MJ Hegar (a retired Air Force helicopter pilot), Amanda Edwards (a Houston City Council member), and Royce West (a 26-year veteran state senator from Dallas).

Launching her campaign in April after narrowly losing to Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31) in 2018, Hegar is running on a more traditional Democratic platform that emphasizes her experience as an Air Force veteran.

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In the second quarter, Hegar raised more than $1 million and reported cash-on-hand value of more than $500,000 during the same time frame. 

By comparison, Tzintzún Ramirez and Edwards also boasted significant campaign contributions, as they each reported raising more than $200,000 by the end of their first days of campaigning.

Edwards, a municipal finance attorney first elected to the Houston City Council in 2015, announced her campaign via Twitter characterizing the 2020 election as one that is “about all the people who have ever been locked out, told that they can’t wait, or to wait their turn because the status quo wasn’t ready for change.”

During her time in office, the Harvard Law School graduate has been an advocate for improving public transportation and growing minority and female operated businesses.

Similar to Beto O’Rourke in 2018, Edwards has strong appeal with younger voters and unabashedly embraces the label of “millennial” when identifying herself. 

By contrast, veteran Texas State Senator Royce West has represented Senate District 23 since 1993. 

Announcing his run in mid-July, West has held many leadership roles during his time in office including president pro tempore. He currently serves as the vice-chair of the Higher Education Committee.

According to the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) filings in July, the state senator from Dallas boasted more than $1.4 million cash on hand in his state account, indicating healthy support and campaign backing. 

Other Democratic candidates hoping to upset Sen. Cornyn include Adrian Ocegueda, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018, Chris Bell, a former congressman and gubernatorial candidate who challenged Rick Perry in 2006, and Sema Hernandez,  a progressive Democrat who was the runner-up to O’Rourke in the 2018 Senate primary. 

When speaking to reporters in June, Sen. Cornyn said regarding the growing list of competitors, “The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.”

Hegar, Edwards, and West met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this past spring.

Many of the Democratic candidates come from large, urban areas, which could make it difficult for them to connect with rural districts. 

Though the competition is heating up, Cornyn reported raising more than $2.5 million between April and June of this year, which is more than double the amount raised by Sen. Ted Cruz during the same time frame from 2017.

Additionally, his campaign reported $9 million in cash on hand with 83 percent of all donations (both large and small) coming from Texas donors, indicating strong support from his Texas voting base.

Sen. Cornyn has served in the public sector for more than 30 years and maintained his current seat in the U.S. Senate since 2002. 

Aside from currently serving as the Majority Whip in the U.S. Senate, the San Antonio native also sits on the Finance Committee, Judiciary Committee, and the Select Committee on Intelligence.

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Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell

Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.