Top Democratic super PAC boosts MJ Hegar in Texas' U.S. Senate race with $8.6 million TV blitz

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Mugs, stickers and buttons on display at the Travis County Democratic Party office in Austin. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Senate Majority PAC, the top Democratic super PAC in U.S. Senate races, is launching a major late investment in Texas, spending $8.6 million on TV ads supporting MJ Hegar's bid to oust Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

The PAC will begin airing two anti-Cornyn ads, one in English and the other in Spanish, on Friday and they will run through Election Day, according to details first shared with The Texas Tribune. Both 30-second spots take Cornyn to task for his longtime opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which includes protections for people with preexisting conditions.

The English commercial invokes a recent Cornyn ad where he claims to support those protections, while a narrator says Cornyn is "lying about his health care record."

"John Cornyn led the charge to eliminate the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions," the narrator says, referring to Cornyn's leading role in Republicans 2017 push to repeal Obamacare. "John Cornyn is a fraud who sold us out.”

Separate from the TV buy, Senate Majority PAC is also planning digital advertising in the race's home stretch.

Polls have continued to give Cornyn single-digit leads of varying size, though there have been signs recently that the race is growing more competitive. Hegar announced raising $13.5 million in the third quarter, a huge improvement of her previous fundraising, and while Cornyn has not shared his latest haul, he has conceded she overwhelmed him financially. Both Cornyn's campaign and a supportive super PAC have gone on TV in recent days attacking Hegar for the first time. And on Tuesday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved its rating of the contest in Hegar's favor, shifting it from "Likely Republican" to "Lean Republican."

The TV buy marks Senate Majority PAC's first spending this election cycle in Texas, and it comes as the group works to expand its battlefield nationally into traditionally red states. Democrats need a net gain of 4 seats to win control of the Senate — or just 3 if Joe Biden wins the presidential race.

"Three weeks out and John Cornyn has a weaker standing than Ted Cruz ever did,” J.B. Poersch, Senate Majority PAC's president, said in a statement. "Voters won’t stand for John Cornyn’s lies when he’s trying to take away their health care during a global pandemic, and with MJ Hegar running a strong campaign focused on lowering their costs, she’s making the case for Texans to give Cornyn the boot in November."

Senate Majority PAC also invested in the 2018 Senate race in Texas, when Beto O'Rourke came within 3 percentage points of beating Cruz. After the election, it was revealed that Senate Majority PAC funded a pop-up super PAC that spent $2.3 million on an 11th-hour ad blitz against Cruz.