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Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn, Democratic Challenger MJ Hegar Talk Issues, Politics In 2020 Senate Race

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - It's early, but the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Texas is starting to take shape.

The Republican incumbent, John Cornyn, is seeking a fourth term. "I see people wanting to turn Texas into things I think most Texans would not approve of: higher taxes, more regulation, less freedom. So a lot of what I intend to do is fight to keep Texas, Texas and not turn us into California."

One of the Democrats running against him is former Air Force helicopter pilot Mary Jennings or MJ Hegar, who came within three points of Republican Central Texas Congressman John Carter last year.

"I'm a combat veteran and a working mom and those two things work together to lead me to want to fulfill the oath that I took to support and defend the Constitution, but also protect the country I love that my kids are growing up into."

Sen. Cornyn and his campaign have said Hegar is tied to Hollywood liberals and big-name Democrats.

Cornyn said, "Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader from New York, is trying to hand-pick the Democratic nominee here in Texas and he's not doing this with an eye toward preserving our uniqueness, in our Texas model, but to turn us into the National Democratic party, a show-place for their agenda."

In response, Hegar said, "The only thing I'm hand-picked for is by his team as the candidate he doesn't want to face in the general. He's paying me a lot of attention for a challenger who hasn't been through a primary yet."

Sen. John Cornyn and MJ Hegar
Sen. John Cornyn and MJ Hegar (credit: CBS 11 News)

The primary is nine months away, and Democrats have not won statewide in Texas in 25 years.

But the party could have a crowded field of candidates in the primary.

Aside from Hegar, State Senator Royce West of Dallas told CBS 11 he is doing his due diligence and considering a run.

Former Congressman and Gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell and Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards are reportedly mulling a run as well.

Former 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Sema Hernandez, former 2018 Gubernatorial candidate Adrian Ocegueda, and NAACP President in Beaumont Michael Cooper are reportedly in the primary already.

Both Hegar and Cornyn told us they support an infrastructure bill.

Cornyn said he has a long history of reaching across the political aisle to find solutions to complex problems. "Try to work on a bipartisan basis often quietly behind the scenes to try to get things done. I enjoy that a lot and I think it's good for Texas."

Hegar said she doesn't want to focus on partisan politics. "I don't really ascribe to this partisan bickering, and the my-side, your-side look to my party leadership how to vote. I look for other servant leaders within my party and across the aisle."

She said healthcare is her top issue.

While Hegar said she supports allowing pepole to buy-into medicare, she doesn't support the medicare for all bill that would eliminate private health insurance. "If people want to stay on their private insurance, I think they should have that option. A lof ot employers use it as a hiring benefit."

Cornyn opposes Obamacare, medicare for all, and denied Democrats' claims he opposes guaranteeing pre-existing conditions. "Everybody's pre-existing conditions ought to be covered. I've co-sponsored legislation to ensure that happens."

Both Cornyn and Hegar disagree on the need for an expanded border wall.

Hegar said, "I do oppose using military construction money, I oppose the construction of a border wall, but definitely using the money and stealing land and giving it to the government from Texans."

Cornyn said, "I certainly supported the measures we need to provide technology, boots on the ground, to provide the barriers where necessary."

The Senator filed a bill with Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district includes San Antonio and Laredo, called the Humane Act, aimed at reforming the U.S. Asylum laws. "That's what's broken now. The cartels, the human smugglers have figured a way to exploit these vulnerabilities in current law."

With regard to the tens of thousands of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras entering the U.S. illegally, Hegar said, "I think we need to be more root-cause oriented. We need to talk about the strategic use of military forces, but also strategic uses of humanitarian assistance. A lot of people see humanitarian assistance as some bleeding heart thing and they don't understand the strategic importance of it, the leverage it gives us, the ability to stop things before they get to our borders."

Many Democrats in Congress and many of the Democrats running for the White House in 2020 have called for President Donald Trump to face impeachment.

Cornyn said even if the House were to impeach the President, the Senate would not convict him. "This whole idea of impeachment, Ms. Pelosi understands that if that were to happen, there would be a huge backlash, and it actually end up helping the President get re-elected. She understands that, but she has a tough management job to take care of the new members of her increasingly radical conference."

He also said he supported the investigation by Attorney General William Barr into how the Russia investigation began. "As a former Judge and a former State Attorney General, I have a very strong belief that those institutions (the FBI and Department of Justice) that should be above politics, but unfortunately, they were not and that power was abused during the investigation of a Presidential candidate and then of a President after he was finally sworn-in, so I would welcome the investigation."

Hegar said Congress has the responsibility to exercise oversight over the Executive Branch of Government, but that she also sees the value in citizens making that decision at the ballot box.

"I don't know how I would vote. I guess I would need to see the rest of the evidence. I haven't talked to the leaders who are calling for impeachment. I haven't talked to the leaders who are saying we shouldn't impeach. Right now, I think we should be focused on unity and identifying the fact that the real enemies are outside of our country, not across the aisle."




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