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MJ Hegar maintains big fundraising lead over Royce West in U.S. Senate runoff

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MJ Hegar raised over $1.7 million in the second quarter of 2020, her campaign announced Thursday, unveiling a haul that marks her best three-month period yet while seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Hegar's runoff opponent, Royce West, took in $430,000 over a slightly shorter period, his campaign said after Hegar's announcement.

Hegar's campaign said she had $1.6 million cash on hand as of June 24, the last day covered by her latest campaign finance report, which is due to the Federal Election Commission by the end of Thursday. West had $160,000 in reserves as of June 24, according to his campaign.

Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s choice in the July 14 runoff to take on Cornyn. Announcing her second-quarter haul, Hegar said in a statement she has has “built the grassroots operation it is going to take to send John Cornyn packing in November.”

The campaign of West, a Dallas state senator who would become Texas' first Black U.S. senator, said it was "very pleased" with its numbers "given that the Washington establishment has had their thumb on the scale against Royce West and ethnic minorities in this race." West's supporters have speculated, without giving specifics, that the DSCC is telling donors not to give to him. The DSCC has denied the suggestion.

In a statement, West spokesperson Vince Leibowitz said the candidate "knows how to run a competitive targeted campaign with lean resources."

West's campaign quickly followed up its fundraising announcement with some better news: the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro. The San Antonio congressman had backed Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez in the crowded March primary, which ended with her narrowly missing the runoff and quickly throwing her support to West.

“Senator West’s experience, and his long list of accomplishments for the people of Texas, make him the clear choice in this race,” Castro said in a statement.

Hegar retains significant advantages in the runoff, including the endorsement of the DSCC, which is helping to fund a statewide TV ad buy that she launched earlier this week. West is not on the air.

Hegar has also been Democrats' top fundraiser since the primary began. Hegar's previous best quarter was the previous one, when she raised $1.6 million.

Cornyn has stayed far ahead of his Democratic competition, with $12.9 million saved up by the end of March. Cornyn is not in a runoff — he easily won his March primary — so he does not have to disclose his campaign finances again until July 15. That report will cover the full second quarter.

Hegar and West, meanwhile, have to file a pre-runoff report later Thursday with the FEC that covers April 1 through June 24, a period that is just six days short of the full quarter.

Tensions in the runoff erupted at a Monday debate where West questioned Hegar's party credentials, and she countered with accusations that he has enriched himself in office. West's campaign said it has built more fundraising momentum since the debate, which happened after the last date covered by the pre-runoff report.

"Runoff Voters have realized they have no idea who the real MJ Hegar is," Leibowitz said.

Hegar's campaign argued Thursday that her latest fundraising details show she is prepared for the general election. Her campaign said over 56,000 people have now given to the campaign, the average online donation is $23, 9 out of 10 donations are under $100, and a majority of donations are from Texas.

West’s campaign said he spent $391,000 between April 1 and June 24, while Hegar’s did not offer that figure.