Mary Jennings Hegar, who grew up in Cedar Park and graduated from Leander High School, announced her candidacy Thursday, July 6 for the 31st District Congressional seat of longtime Republican U.S. Rep. John Rice Carter.
Hegar, a resident of Round Rock, is a celebrated Afghanistan war veteran, a women's rights champion, author and the subject of an upcoming major movie. She is expected to bring national attention to the local congressional race.
Before she can attempt to unseat Congressman Carter, however, Hegar must defeat three other hard-working candidates in the March 6, 2018 Democrat primary. Also seeking the Democratic nomination to face Carter are Christine Eady Mann, a Cedar Park family physician; Mike Clark, a geospatial engineer from Georgetown; and retired Army officer and former educator Kent Lester, who lives in Cedar Park.
"As an Air Force officer, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," said Hegar. "Divisive policies that isolate us from the world with no consideration for our history of religious freedom, welcoming immigrants, supporting our allies, and fulfilling our promises pose a threat to the very ideals upon which our country and our Constitution were founded.”
Hegar, a graduate of the University of Texas, served three tours in Afghanistan flying Combat Search and Rescue as well as Medevac missions. On one of those missions in Afghanistan in 2009 she was shot down. Despite being wounded, Hegar used her weapon to furiously fight off a group of enemy attackers and save the lives of her patients and crew.
For her heroic actions, she was awarded a number of medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross — a medal that has only been awarded to six women in our nation's history. The first medal recipient was Amelia Earhart.
After returning home, Hegar filed suit in 2012 against the Secretary of Defense asserting that the Combat Exclusion Policy banning women from certain positions in the military was unconstitutional. Hegar’s lawsuit and fight for equality was instrumental in the 2013 repeal of the policy.
Hegar has written about her Afghanistan rescues and her challenge to the Pentagon's rules about women in combat in her book "Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front." TriStar is making the book into a major motion picture and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie is negotiating to play the role of Hegar.
"Congressman John Carter is doing nothing to defend the citizens of this district," Hegar said. "We don't need a bystander to short-sighted policies that threaten our national security. We need someone willing to stand up to bullying and intimidation to protect our freedom and our place on the world stage, and that's why I'm running for Congress in my home District 31."
Congressman Carter is serving his seventh term in Congress. A resident of Round Rock, he is a conservative Republican who won election in 2016 by more than 24,000 votes. Carter, 75, is a former four-term Williamson County judge. He is chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.
Hegar and the other Democratic candidates have criticized Carter for his party line voting and failure to hold town meetings.
"It’s time we stop simply voting down party lines and start electing strong, reasonable, solution-oriented citizens," Hegar said.