With 93.3% of votes counted, Decision Desk HQ declared a victory for U.S. Sen. Job Cornyn, who was reelected to his fourth term after beating his Democratic challenger MJ Hegar by 10 percentage points.
During the campaign period, Cornyn ran on his record. On his website, he emphasized his role in passing legislation to address human trafficking and the high cost of prescription drugs.
The incumbent also criticized his opponent, painting her as a recipient of "dark money" from the super PACs such as Senate Majority, Future Forward and EMILY's List, and accusing her of conspiring with Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee, to "California-Our-Texas."
Hegar, a decorated combat veteran, Round Rock mom and self-described "badass," hasn't held public office. She narrowly won the Democratic nomination for the Texas Senate seat in a runoff election against state Sen. Royce West in July.
"I'm not a career politician, running for U.S. Senate was never my plan," Hegar said in a statement. "I am confident that the work we did will move our state forward for years to come."
Her campaign stressed her experience working as a program manager for Seton Healthcare Family, as well as her support for the Affordable Care Act, as proof of her ability to lead Texas out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession it has created.
This stands in sharp contrast to Cornyn, who has long opposed the ACA and recently voted to confirm President Trump's latest Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, whom many Democrats fear will further endanger the legislation.
Hegar also focused on Cornyn's low profile among voters. Although he acknowledged this dynamic, he maintained a five- to 10-point lead over Hegar in polls, according to a round-up compiled by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
Despite Cornyn's lead in the polls, Democrats believed that the race was winnable for many reasons: high turnout among Democratic voters in the July runoff election, Trump's flagging approval rating and a flood of donations from around the country.
Turnout, of course, did break records. More than 9.7 million Texas voters cast their ballots early this election, compared to fewer than 9 million in the entire 2016 race.
Cornyn, who has been publicly supportive of the president, did appear to distance himself last month, when he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board that when he disagrees with Trump he does so privately.
A handful of other Republican senators facing closer-than-expected reelection races have done the same, according to multiple reports.
"The president has had, in strictly political terms, a not particular good year and is an erratic standard bearer," Jim Henson, a professor of government and director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told Austonia in August. "So if you are a Republican candidate in Texas, and your fate is hitched to the president's, it's a very anxiety-ridden ride."
Opposition to the president was not great enough to hand Hegar a victory—or flip Texas.
Samantha Cotten, the regional communications director for the Republican National Committee, expected as much.
"Beto O'Rourke lost in 2018, MJ Hegar will lose in 2020," she said in a statement to Austonia in August. "Democrats' dream of turning Texas blue will be shattered once again and it is little wonder as to why considering Democrats are actively campaigning on destroying the Second Amendment, the energy industry, and our cities by defunding police."
This story was updated at 5:30 a.m. with the final percentage of votes counted, as well as how many percentage points Cornyn led the race by.
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