AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn and Democratic challenger MJ Hegar went head-to-head in their first televised Senate debate on Friday, Oct. 9.
The candidates touched on topics ranging from COVID-19 to the legalization of marijuana.
Here were five of the top moments from the debate:
Second Round of Stimulus
Off the top of the debate, the candidates were asked if they would support giving Americans a second round of stimulus checks. Both candidates favored the option.
“I believe we need more stimulus. I’m upset that the government and the Senate haven’t acted in over six months, I was upset that John Cornyn said that he didn’t feel a sense of urgency to get more relief out,” Hegar said.
“I’ve actually done something about it by supporting with this bipartisan $3.8 trillion expenditure but we need to do more. And I hope that the White House and Speaker Pelosi will continue to negotiate,” Cornyn responded.
He then took a jab at one of Hegar’s supporters.
“What I don’t understand is the chief sponsor for her candidacy, Chuck Schumer, single handedly blocked $500 trillion in additional spending that would have made sure that the vaccine would have been available at the end of the year,” Cornyn said, although he later corrected that amount to $500 billion.
“It must be frustrating for you, John, to not be able to run against Chuck Schumer,” Hegar responded. “He’s running against MJ Hegar, but you’re gonna hear a lot of Pelosi and Schumer and other names because he can’t run against my vision for this state.”
Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines
The candidates were asked if students should be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, once it is available, before going to school.
Hegar ultimately said she supported mandated vaccinations. “I’m not a fan of government mandating things on your body…but we don’t have the right to put other people at risk. So, yes, I support vaccinations.”
Cornyn also supported a vaccine, but said those who are most vulnerable should get it first.
“I think the people who should get the vaccine first are the people who are most likely to die,” Cornyn said.
State Sen. Royce West Discussion
Hegar was asked to respond to claims from State Senator Royce West, her opponent in the Democratic primary, who said he gave Hegar his phone number but she has not called.
“A lot of people express frustration that I don’t engage in politics as usual. Personal endorsements tend to come with quid pro quo, that I believe are a big part of what’s broken in politics. I will come humbly and ask for the support of the Texas voters of the organizations that have endorsed me, but you can call multiple people including the people who have personally endorsed me and ask them if I asked for their endorsement,” Hegar responded.
Cornyn rebutted, “A reason why Senator West doesn’t call up MJ Hegar was because of the way she treated him during the primary – she hints at the suggestion that he as a state senator, an African American, and successful lawyer, the only way he could attain that is to be corrupt.”
“I completely disagree,” Hegar responded, “I have a lot of respect for Senator West, and I think it says something that John Cornyn, for the first time in nearly four decades as a statewide elected official, is meddling in a primary of his opponent. He’s clearly worried.”
Supreme Court Decisions
The candidates were asked about their stance on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and the timing of the Trump administration’s push to get her confirmed before the election.
“I think the American people need to see, she’s a supremely qualified candidate, and I’m happy to be part of that judiciary committee that’s going to hear her testimony, but, frankly, America will be able to hear her testimony and judge her for themselves,” Cornyn said.
“Right now we are in the middle of an election where people have already cast ballots,” Hegar said. “This urgency we expect to see around getting COVID relief, or any of the other bills that are sitting in Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard, things like universal background checks and ending corruption and even corporate PAC money supporting candidates like John Cornyn.”
After a question about vaccines, Cornyn turned the topic to Hegar’s supporters. “I was shocked and surprised, frankly, that Chuck Schumer would leave all the Democrats in the United States Senate to vote against a $500 billion relief package,” he said.
“That’s the people who are supporting MJ, the people who recruited her and her donors and the first vote she will pass will be for Chuck Schumer as the leader,” Cornyn added.
“I’m MJ Hegar. I’m a Purple Heart medal veteran and a working mom of two, and I am your opponent and I’m the person you’re running against, as inconvenient as that is for you,” Hegar responded. “It’s my ideas and my supporting this state that you’re going to have to face in this election.”
“I’m worried about the people who are bankrolling your campaign, the Hollywood celebrities,” Cornyn interjected.
The moderators then moved the candidates on to the next topic.