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MJ Hegar keeps fundraising lead as Democratic primary to challenge Cornyn reaches end

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With less than two weeks until election day, MJ Hegar is having little trouble maintaining her status as the fundraising leader in the crowded Democratic primary to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Hegar, the former Air Force helicopter pilot, raised $638,000 over the first six weeks of the year, easily more than any of her 11 rivals, according to the latest available filings with the Federal Election Commission, which were due Thursday. The period — Jan. 1 through Feb. 12 — was Hegar’s first since she was endorsed late last year by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Behind Hegar, the closest fundraiser in the primary was progressive organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who took in $182,000. She was closely followed by Dallas state Sen. Royce West ($178,000), and next was former Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards ($128,000).

Hegar has now raised more than $3.8 million since launching her campaign in April — also more than any of her intraparty opponents, though several got a later start.

Cornyn, who faces minimal opposition in his primary, continued to outpace the Democratic field on the latest FEC reports, raising $1.16 million, spending $1.26 million and ending the period with $12 million cash on hand.

Hegar also led the Democrats in cash on hand, reporting $851,000 in reserves. The runner-up was West, who has $308,000 to spend.

With the primary nearing, the state senator significantly ramped up his spending, unloading $396,000 — more than double what he raised. West’s expenses included $233,000 on ad buys and mailers.

Hegar also continued to spend big, disclosing $791,000 in expenses, roughly a quarter more than what she raised. Media and mail also made up most of her spending.

Hegar has been the only candidate on TV in the primary, though that will change Saturday, when West is beginning a cable buy in Dallas, according to his campaign. Outside groups have also been on the air in the primary — VoteVets for Hegar and a newer effort called Lone Star Forward on behalf of Tzintzún Ramirez.

The primary is almost certain to advance to a runoff. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey released Friday indicated that Hegar is well positioned to move forward, while several candidates are in contention for the No. 2 spot.

Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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