TX-31: MJ Hegar vs. John Carter
“Quality of representation”
MJ Hegar's TX-31 is the least gerrymandered of the six Austin districts in a literal sense: As the courts say, it is "compact and contiguous," in that it comprises all of Williamson (including about 27,000 Austin voters) and nearly all of adjoining Bell County. But Hegar notes that the lines do reflect Republican "gerrymandering demographics," because of both active military members (Fort Hood) and more veterans than 97% of congressional districts. "They like to think that the military vote is monolithic," Hegar said. "But we're different in another way, in that we're accustomed not to think first of 'our own best interest' – veterans are more concerned about other people."
Hegar made a national viral splash with her video ad, "Doors" – which features her fighting through obstacles to help establish the right of military women to serve in combat, and recently another ad, "Tattoos," notes the ink she acquired as a way to beautify the wounds she received as a medevac helicopter pilot in Afghanistan (both stories told in her book, Shoot Like a Girl). That personal history gives an unusual campaign advantage – many of the soldiers she helicoptered out of combat also live in her district, and know her and her history personally.
Because she's received national support in response to those ads, Carter has described her as funded by out-of-state liberals. Hegar responds that most of Carter's money is from corporate sources – including the private prison industry – while 94% of her donations have been $200 or less. "I'll hold that competition with John Carter all day and every day."
Hegar says that there's no need to nationalize this campaign, and that because she grew up in the district, she believes that for TX-31 voters, "character is the most important thing." She says she was inspired to put together the "Doors" video to show voters her actual accomplishments. "People don't care about what you say you're going to do – people care about what you've done. Your record is the predictor of how you're going to perform."
"This election is less about 'R' versus 'D,'" Hegar says, "and more about people wanting present representation instead of absent titleholders. ... It's more about quality of representation, and less about partisan football."
Hegar has been out-raising Carter – he's recently shifted from a "donor" GOP candidate to other campaigns, to a receiver – and she says her campaign polling reflect she's now "within the margin of error."
"Carter won his 2016 race by 22 points, and now we're within 4 points. I'm going to keep working my tail off," Hegar concludes, "and I think we're going to do real well."
TX-31 Snapshot: "Likely R"
FiveThirtyEight odds of D pickup: 1 in 6 (18.2%)
John Carter: "We Need More Texas in Washington and Less Washington in Texas!"
Other candidates: Jason Hope (Libertarian)
Money race (as of June 30):
Carter: $996,707 raised, $537,561 cash on hand
Hegar: $1.6 million raised, $867,267 COH