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Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars meddling in the Democratic primary to face him, airing television and radio advertisements to boost a state legislator over Washington Democrats’ preferred candidate.
Tuesday’s runoff election pits Air Force veteran M.J. Hegar against long-time state Sen. Royce West, with the winner set to face Cornyn, the second-highest ranking Senate Republican, in November. Democrats, looking at both an increasingly favorable national political climate and demographic and ideological changes throughout Texas, are cautiously eyeing the race as a pick-up opportunity as they seek to overcome Republicans’ 53-47 advantage in the Senate.
“Democrats, independents and Republicans are just, frankly, disturbed by where the president has led this country,” West said in a phone interview, expressing confidence in the Democratic Party’s ability to win the state at the presidential and Senate levels in November. “We’re going to have to nationalize this race.”
The race, as the final competitive Democratic Senate primary of the cycle, is also a test of a Senate Democratic political operation that is so far undefeated in steering its preferred candidates through primaries, and of the limits of Democratic voters’ preference for Black candidates in the weeks and months following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sporadic public polling has shown Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden competitive with President Donald Trump in the state, though Cornyn has shown a more consistent lead. And unlike in 2018, when then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke raised $80 million and came within 3 percentage points of toppling Sen. Ted Cruz, Democrats are trailing Cornyn ― who has nearly $13 million on hand ― badly in the money race.
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