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MJ Hegar Far Outpaces Royce West In U.S. Senate Fundraising, But Both Are Far Behind John Cornyn

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic challenger MJ Hegar.
Juan Figueroa: Cornyn/Marjorie Kamys Cotera: Hegar
The Texas Tribune
Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic challenger MJ Hegar.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, raised $2.7 million over the past three months, his campaign announced Wednesday morning, marking another quarter during which he easily outpaced the Democrats hoping to challenge him.

Democrats MJ Hegar and Royce West are in a primary runoff to take on Cornyn. Hegar, the former Air Force helicopter pilot, announced Tuesday evening that she raised $1.6 million during the first quarter, while West's campaign provided figures Wednesday morning that indicated he took in $407,000 over the period.

The candidates have until the end of Wednesday to disclose their latest figures to the Federal Election Commission.

Cornyn now has $12.9 million in the bank, according to his campaign. Hegar, who had her best quarter yet, ended the period with $1.1 million cash on hand, her campaign said. West's campaign did not immediately share his cash-on-hand total.

Hegar, the choice of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, advanced to the runoff with West after a 12-way primary in early March. Cornyn, meanwhile, did not have to worry about a competitive primary and continued to stockpile money for the general election.

The FEC already required the candidates to share their fundraising numbers for the period from Jan. 1 through Feb. 12, so the reports due Wednesday will reveal their finances from Feb. 13 through the end of the quarter, or March 31.

For example, Hegar disclosed raising $638,000 from Jan. 1 through Feb. 12, so the quarterly total that her campaign announced Tuesday evening indicates she will report collecting $962,000 from Feb. 13 through March 31. The split for Cornyn is $1.2 million and $1.5 million for Jan. 1 through Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 through March 31, respectively.

The final few weeks of the quarter saw the coronavirus pandemic begin to upend campaigning, prompting candidates to cancel in-person events and make other adjustments for the foreseeable future.

"There's no question that COVID-19 has turned traditional campaigning on its head," Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson said in a statement on the incumbent's latest fundraising figures. "Instead of exploiting an emergency for political gain like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Senator Cornyn has been laser-focused on ensuring our families stay safe, businesses stay afloat, and frontline responders have the resources they need to fight this pandemic."

Despite the hurdles created by the pandemic, Hegar raised more in the first quarter than she did in any prior quarter, easily topping the $1.2 million she took in during the last three months of 2019. Teasing her fundraising numbers during a virtual campaign event last week, Hegar said she had her strongest quarter at a time when "a lot of campaigns are using [coronavirus] as an excuse to not be able to fundraise."

"Don't get me wrong: It's hard. It's hard because so many people are suffering," Hegar said. "We can't do fundraisers with large gatherings, but our grassroots energy and enthusiasm is really sustaining us."

While West raised a fraction of Hegar's haul, his campaign expressed confidence in a statement that emphasized its low dollar-to-vote ratio in the primary compared to that of "the opponent."

"The West campaign continues to raise the money necessary to win this race," West spokesman Vince Leibowitz said. "Simply put, our team can do more with less."

Cornyn has now accrued over 50,000 donors this election cycle, according to his campaign. Two-thirds of his first-quarter contributions came from Texans, while over 95% of the donations were $200 or less. His average contribution during the period was $83.

Hegar's donor count, meanwhile, is up to over 42,000 people, her campaign said. Both in the first quarter and since she started her campaign, a majority of her donations have been from Texas, 90% have been $100 or less and her average online contribution has been $23.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.