In a Texas congressional district that includes one of the country's largest military bases, a military hero is betting she can stage a political upset.
Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is launching a Democratic challenge against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in Texas' solidly red 31st Congressional District.
"I see a threat to our Constitution, our democracy," Hegar said in a recent interview, "and I feel compelled to do something more about it."
Hegar served three tours in Afghanistan as a search-and-rescue pilot, and in 2009, she saved the lives of her passengers after her medevac helicopter was shot down by the Taliban. She subsequently received the Purple Heart as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device.
She went on to become a fierce advocate for women in the military, helping lead a 2012 lawsuit against the Defense Department over its now-repealed policy excluding women from ground combat positions.
Hegar's memoir, "Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front," was published earlier this year and is being made into a film. Angelina Jolie is reportedly in talks to star in it.
Carter's district has been reliably Republican, but Hegar, now an executive coach and consultant living in Round Rock, believes she can flip it, confident in her ability to garner crossover support with her experience at the national and international levels. She said her decision to run was partly motivated by the election of President Donald Trump, who has caused concern among even his own party's national security professionals.
"I think being a Republican is not what it used to be," Hegar said. "Even though [the district] is historically Republican, I think some people are voting Republican because they have a misperception of what the Democratic Party is."
Hegar grew up in a Republican family and voted for the party in her youth. But she said many of the things that once drew her to the GOP — including the principle of small government — are "no longer true," and she now describes herself as an "independent Democrat."
On a number of hot-button issues, Hegar strikes a moderate tone.
“I am for the Second Amendment, but I am for common-sense gun legislation," said Hegar, who said her household contains five firearms. "We take responsibility for being firearm owners. We take responsibility for whose hands those guns get into."
Read the complete article on The Texas Tribune's website here.