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Democrat MJ Hegar concedes U.S. Senate race to Republican incumbent John Cornyn

The race was closely watched nationwide as Republicans fight to keep control of the Senate.

HOUSTON — Democrat MJ Hegar has conceded in her bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

Hegar called Cornyn at 8:20 p.m. Tuesday to concede, Cornyn spokesman Travis Considine said. 

At last check, the incumbent was ahead 53% to 45%.

Cornyn tweeted to say he was "inspired by your trust and your patriotism" after voters selected him to serve another term.

The incumbent thanked the state, saying "it is the honor of my life to serve Texas in the U.S. Senate."

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Hegar also tweeted after calling to concede: "I'm so proud and incredibly grateful for all of your support. Together, we've worked so hard, and overcome so much, shattering expectations along the way. We’ve built a powerful grassroots movement from the ground up, and I know our fight here in Texas is far from over."

Cornyn held an edge in polls and fundraising for most of the race but was still forced into mounting an unusually aggressive defense of his 18 years in the Senate.

Democrats poured millions of dollars behind Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot who narrowly lost a U.S. House race two years ago.  

Hegar ran against Cornyn, casting him as a career politician whose time had passed and touting herself as a military veteran, working-mom outsider who would better represent Texas values. She accused him of not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously enough and emphasized his leading role in the GOP push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and, with it, its protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Cornyn, meanwhile, pitched himself as a “steady hand on the wheel” whose congressional seniority was especially needed in such a turbulent time. He portrayed Hegar as too liberal for the state, calling her views hostile to the oil and gas industry and seeking to link her to the “defund the police” movement.

After U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s unexpectedly close race against Beto O’Rourke in 2018, Cornyn admitted Republicans had a wake-up call and sought early to show he was not taking anything for granted. He hired a campaign manager in January 2019 and lined up a series of big-name intraparty endorsements — including that of President Donald Trump — to guard against serious primary opposition.

WATCH: Interview with Sen. John Cornyn

Credit: AP
Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, arrives onstage to meet challenger MJ Hegar, of Round Rock, to face off in a debate Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (Bob Daemmrich/Nexstar/KXAN via AP, Pool)