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WATCH LIVE: Democrats Running For U.S. Senate Debate Tonight. Here's Who's On The Ballot.


By Jimmy Maas, KUT

Eleven of the 12 Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Texas will debate tonight – the first day of early voting in the March 3 primary.  

A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune  poll shows  M.J. Hegar is outpacing the crowded field, but the real polling begins today with voters.

The candidates are competing to likely take on Republican  Sen. John Cornyn, who is running for his fourth term, in November.

There are 12 Democratic U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot in Texas:

MJ Hegar is a former Air Force pilot. In 2018, she mounted a serious challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter, losing the congressional seat in Williamson and Bell counties by less than 3 percentage points (50.6 to 47.7). She grew up in Cedar Park and graduated from Leander High School and UT Austin.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramirezis a labor organizer based in Austin. She began working with immigrant communities in Ohio while still in high school. She moved to Texas 20 years ago to attend UT Austin and continued her activism in labor organizations. Three years ago, she founded Jolt, a group working to increase Latino voter turnout.

Former Congressman  Chris Bell is a former Houston City Council member and was the 2006 Democratic nominee for Texas governor. He served as U.S. representative for the 25th Congressional District for one term from 2003 to 2005. His district was redrawn by the Republican Legislature to consolidate the number of Democratic-held offices (technically, his successor for the 25th District is Austin’s Lloyd Doggett). He was once a radio reporter in Abilene and Houston after graduating from UT Austin.

Amanda K. Edwards is a current Houston City Council member. She is an at-large member, meaning she represents the entire city. She is from Houston and has a bachelor's degree from Emory University and a law degree from Harvard.

Sen.  Royce West has been a state senator representing the Dallas-based 23rd District since 1993. This will be his first primary since that campaign. He has run unopposed for his Texas Senate seat in the Democratic primary six times. He’s a practicing lawyer with a law degree from the University of Houston and a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UT Arlington.

Annie “Mamá” Garcia lives in Houston where she started OpHeart, a nonprofit to help treat children with congenital heart disease. She just ended a 420-mile walking tour of the state to “protest John Cornyn’s politics.” She was raised in Georgetown and attended Rice University and law school at UT Austin.

Sema Hernandez is an organizer and most recently chaired the Texas Poor People’s Campaign. She ran against Beto O’Rourke for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination two years ago. She managed to get nearly 24% of the vote as a single mother of four boys. She works in the health insurance industry in Houston. She says her parents were migrant workers and she is the first U.S.-born member of her family.

Col.  Victor Hugo Harris is currently a cyber warfare officer in the U.S. Army. He was raised in the Rio Grande Valley. He joined the Army after a few years of college, serving in the 82nd Airborne Division. After two deployments, he finished college at St. Mary’s in San Antonio, became an Army officer flying helicopters and later served in counterintelligence.

Michael Cooper came within a few percentage points of winning the Democratic nomination for Texas lieutenant governor in 2018. He is a former sales manager for a Beaumont Toyota dealer. He is a pastor and psychologist, according to Twitter, with a degree from Lamar University.

Jack Daniel Foster, Jr., considers himself a teacher. He has a finance degree for the University of Houston, as well as a laboratory science degree from the UT Health Science Center in Houston. 

Adrian Ocegueda is a financial analyst at a private equity firm in Dallas. He ran for Texas governor in the 2018 primary, finishing with just more than 4% of the vote. He is from El Paso, went to undergrad at Princeton and got a master’s from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

D.R. Hunter is also on the ballot, though his campaign does not have a website. He will not be participating in the debate.

The debate starts at 6:30 p.m. Coverage begins on Marfa Public Radio at 6:20 p.m.