Democratic candidate for Texas's 31st congressional district Mary Jennings "MJ" Hegar's ad campaign has gone viral, but can it win her a seat in the reliably conservative district?
In three minutes and thirty seconds, Hegar's video tells her life story through a series of doors— the doors she had to push through to get to flight school and join the Air Force, the door from her crashed combat helicopter, and the doors she broke down when she sued the Pentagon to end the ban on women serving in ground combat.
Hegar then pivots to incumbent Republican Rep. John Carter, promising to "show him the door" come election time.
"Apparently being his constituent and a veteran wasn't enough to get a meeting. I guess I also needed to be a donor," Hegar says in the ad, describing how she tried to get a constituent meeting with Carter when lobbying for her Pentagon lawsuit.
The ad has over 2.5 million views on Youtube, was widely shared by prominent voices on Twitter, and has earned Hegar airtime on CNN and MSNBC. But despite the positive response to the video, her district is still reliably Republican.
In the state's March primary, Hegar won 44.9 percent of Democrats' votes while Carter, who was first elected in 2002, secured 65.4 percent of Republican ballots. Texas' 31st Congressional District contains Williamson and Bell counties, both of which voted for President Trump in the 2016 election.
According to the Federal Elections Commission, Hegar has earned nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions, with about $117,000 on hand, while Carter has approximately $748,000 in contributions and nearly $351,000 on hand.
Patrick Svitek, the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune, pointed out that despite the ad's popularity, "even within Texas, there hasn't been too much attention paid" to the race in a district which he described as "still very red." And it's not even a top tier targeted race for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in their quest to retake the House.
"But, it is the year of the woman in many ways and we've certainly seen that in Texas where women have broken through a crowded field," Svitek told CBS News.
"She's still introducing herself to political observers across the state," he later added.
With part of the military's Fort Hood base in Bell County, Hegar's Air Force background gives her a chance to win some crossover votes in this area, but Carter is still a household name in his district.
"The Republican incumbent has been a political figure in that area for a very long time, even before he was a congressman," Svitek said.
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