A new poll in Texas’ 31 Congressional District race shows incumbent Rep. John Carter with a 15-point lead over Democrat M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran who captured national attention with a viral television ad in June.
The New York Times/Siena College independent poll is the first of its kind in the District 31 race, which has been targeted by national Democrats for Hegar’s upset potential over Carter, an eight-term incumbent from Round Rock.
Polling 490 possible voters from Oct. 1-5, the results show Carter with 53 percent of the vote to Hegar’s 38 percent.
“This confirms what our internal polling told us last week,” Carter campaign spokesman Bruce Harvie said in an email Monday. “Congressman Carter’s relationship with the constituents of this district, and his record of fighting for them and delivering, can’t be overshadowed by ultra liberal donors from New York and California. Congressman Carter has a strong lead in this race because voters know they can count on him to be their voice in Washington.”
According to Harvie, an internal poll paid for by Carter’s camp and conducted in late September showed the incumbent with a 21-point advantage of his opponent — 54 percent to 33 percent.
A separate poll paid for by Hegar’s campaign in September showed Carter with a slim four-point lead.
“We believe this poll is an outlier,” Hegar spokesman Christian Walker said Monday. “Other recent polling shows MJ has closed the gap and is within 4 points of John Carter. We're confident in our operation and excited to continue sharing MJ's vision for District 31."
Hegar, of Round Rock, hit the national stage earlier this summer when her three-minute television spot, titled “Doors,” went viral online. As of Monday, the video had 2.89 million views on YouTube.
Hegar, a former Air Force medical helicopter pilot who was shot down in Afghanistan, is the author of a best-selling book on her war-time escapades and was a plaintiff in a federal ACLU case in 2012 to allow women to serve in ground combat roles. The Department of Defense overturned that exclusion policy in December 2015.
Hegar was one of five Democrats who faced off in the March 6 primary for the nomination, underscoring a push by blue Texas candidates to challenge Republican-dominated districts after President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
As of June 30, Hegar — with more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions — has outraised Carter by more than 50 percent, driven primarily by national Democrat money flowing into the race.
In early August, Hegar was targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm for Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as part of “Red to Blue” campaign to flip hard-red national races.
In November 2014, Carter easily won the district with a nearly 22-percent advantage over Democrat opponent Mike Clark, of Georgetown.
Early voting for the Nov. 6 midterms opens Oct. 22. The deadline to register to vote is today.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add a quote from M.J. Hegar's campaign spokesman.