Air Force veteran Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar announced Thursday she would challenge Republican Rep. John Carter in Texas’ deep-red 31st Congressional District.
Hegar told the Texas Tribune that she saw “a threat to our Constitution, our democracy … and I feel compelled to do something more about it.”
In 2009, during one of her tours of Afghanistan as a search-and-rescue pilot, Hegar saved three of her passengers after her helicopter was shot down by the Taliban, which earned her a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device and a Purple Heart.
She since became an advocate for allowing women to participate in ground combat missions and is an executive coach and consultant in Round Rock.
She wrote about her fight in Afghanistan and the fight for military women to earn credit for their efforts in her book “Shoot Like a Girl,” which Sen. John McCain called “a must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.”
Hegar said she was partially motivated to run because of President Donald Trump. She said she voted Republican in the past, but now calls herself an “independent Democrat.”
“I think some people are voting Republican because they have a misperception of what the Democratic Party is,” she told the Tribune.
For example, she said she supports the Second Amendment and her home contains five firearms, but also said she supports “common-sense gun legislation.”
Hegar also called Carter an “incumbent bystander” and that she wants others members like him to know “cannot get away with just representing his voters, his special interests.”
In 2016, Carter beat Democratic opponent Mike Clark, who is also running in the primary this year, by more than 20 points. The district has a large military presence at Fort Hood, which it shares with the 25th Congressional District.
While 60 percent of the district is white, almost a quarter is Hispanic and many middle-class African-American families have relocated there from Austin, according to the newspaper.
Hegar faces a crowded Democratic primary to challenge Carter, with three other Democrats in the primary, including fellow veteran Kent Lester.