AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ahead of the July 14 runoff election, Democratic candidates for Texas U.S. Senate used the platform of a statewide televised debate to target the Republican incumbent, Sen. John Cornyn, instead of each other.
MJ Hegar, a retired Air Force pilot, and Texas Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) participated in a debate on Saturday that was broadcast to Nexstar Media Group stations across Texas from the KXAN studio in Austin.
Hegar, who finished first in the Democratic primary with 22.3% of votes, issued the most pointed attacks of Cornyn’s record.
“I’m absolutely committed to ending Citizens United because when the private prison industry cuts checks to John Cornyn, he legislates in their benefit and he makes sure that they’re at max capacity which is max profit,” Hegar said, referencing the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that granted First Amendment protections to corporations and special interest groups looking to make unlimited campaign donations.
According to campaign finance watchdog group Open Secrets, Cornyn has received $40,650 in donations from for-profit prisons during the 2020 election cycle, fifth-most among members of the U.S. Congress.
West spoke generally against Cornyn, saying he hasn’t represented all Texans.
“John Cornyn for some strange reason has kind of been hollow in terms of his leadership in the state of Texas, not reflecting the 21st-century values of this particular country,” West said. “He’s followed Donald Trump, frankly, off the cliff.”
It’s true, Cornyn has supported President Trump both vocally and through his voting record.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Cornyn has voted in line with the president’s agenda 95% of the time.
Hegar highlighted a recent Quinnipiac University poll, which found Cornyn had a 37% approval rating.
“That is not a guarantee, that is an opportunity, and I’m going to seize on that opportunity by connecting with every community across the state,” she said.
Hegar accurately referenced the poll, however, Cornyn’s approval rating is significantly higher than in recent years, according to the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. In June 2016, Cornyn’s approval rating was 24%.