Sen. John Cornyn turns to flat-out lying about his opponent as race heats up


A recent Public Policy Polling poll found Cornyn leading his opponent by just 3 points.

In a last-minute attempt to grab votes, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) launched a new campaign ad this week falsely claiming that his Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, among other things, wants to "legalize prostitution."

Cornyn's reelection campaign is spending more than $700,000 on the misleading ad campaign as his lead over Hegar has narrowed.

The ad features an image of a woman's legs and high heels, and claims that Hegar wants to "legalize prostitution" and "defund the police."

Hegar disputed the claim that she wants to legalize sex work in a virtual forum with the Dallas Examiner on Monday night.

"That's something that John Cornyn's been pushing as a conspiracy theory," Hegar said. "I've never said I'm for that."

Cornyn's claim is based on the fact that Hegar has voiced support for Campaign Zero, a group that wants to end police violence, with a focus on the over-policing and brutality that people of color experience.

Campaign Zero calls for the decriminalization of several "broken windows offenses" that don't threaten public safety and are often "used to police Black communities."

Among the minor crimes listed on the organization's website are marijuana possession, trespassing, loitering, jaywalking, bicycling on the sidewalk, and prostitution.

Cornyn's ad does not address the fact that legalization and decriminalization are two distinct legal concepts.

But his understanding of the laws governing prostitution has historically been shaky.

Cornyn has long conflated sex work with sex trafficking. He sponsored the Abolish Human Trafficking Act of 2017, which was signed into law in early 2018. Though the law claims to combat sex trafficking and exploitation, it also permits state and local governments to wiretap suspected sex workers, and allows the Department of Homeland Security to screen sex workers.

Hegar spokesperson Amanda Sherman told the Dallas Morning News that Cornyn's "pathetic attack" is only proof of how Cornyn has "repeatedly failed to support any actual needed police reform."

What it does indicate, she said, is how desperate the Cornyn campaign is.

In an Oct. 9 debate, Cornyn brought up the topic of prostitution, claiming Hegar has "endorsed" Campaign Zero, which wants to "defund police," "abolish police," and "legalize things like prostitution."

"To me, those are not Texas values," he said.

Hegar responded that she has never endorsed the legalization of sex work, but endorses Campaign Zero's advocacy work for communities of color.

She added that she agrees with the group's efforts to promote "community policing and community oversight and body cameras and police officer representative of the communities that they're policing."

These attacks come on the heels of a Democratic super PAC launching a last-minute $8.6 million ad campaign supporting Hegar. Her campaign also raised $13.5 million in the third quarter.

This "roughly outraised" the Cornyn campaign by "2-to-1 in the third quarter," Cornyn admitted to Lubbock, Texas radio host Chad Hasty last Thursday.

Cornyn told the talk radio host that "the money game has changed dramatically," and accused Hegar of "trying to turn us into California or New York."

This week, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted its rating of the Texas Senate race from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican." A recent Public Policy Polling poll found Cornyn leading Hegar by just 3 points.

If Hegar is able to eke out a win, it would be a historic victory for Democrats in the state. Texas has not elected a Democratic senator since 1988.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.