A viral campaign ad transformed MJ Hegar in 2018 from a little-known Democratic challenger in a Texas U.S House of Representative race to high-profile candidate. She always said she was running to protect the world for her children. When she lost that race, she thought she’d never run again, she explains in an essay published in Elle.
People tried convincing her to run against Senator John Cornyn, a Republican who has reprented Texas in the U.S. Senate since 2002. But she demurred.
That is, she says, until her son asked her a question.
“He asked, 'Mommy, are you still MJ for Texas?' I said, 'No, mommy's just working now, just your mommy.' He thought about it for a second, and I know this sounds crazy, but he said, 'Does that mean that you're done protecting me? That the world is safe now?'" she recalls in the essay.
Hegar felt gutted. She recalled thinking:
“No, I'm not done protecting you. Of course not. That's when I started going, let me look at this and see if this is something that I should do."
As a former combat pilot who was injured in a search and rescue mission in Afghanistan, Hegar says she never dreamed of becoming a politician. "My dream was to be Han Solo," she writes. But she still felt strongly about the responsibilities she had as a protector.
"Having spent 11 years serving our country in the military, I firmly believe it is my responsibility to fulfill the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution," she said. "I'm also a mom with two young boys, and I want to do everything I can to protect the world my sons and all our kiddos are growing up into."
In her essay, she shares her very personal reason for casting herself in the role of protector.
“When I was very little, I watched my mom and my sister be abused by my biological father, and it instilled in me a fierce protective streak: I will be strong enough to stand up for and protect the people that I love. I think that's why I became a rescue pilot. That's why when I see an injustice, I can't sleep if I'm not doing something to fix it,” she writes.
While her husband also encouraged her to run, she says it’s her children that encouraged her to take on the incumbent.
"My kids are convinced that I'm a superhero, and I just won't tell them because I have to keep my secret identity. That I'm out there fighting injustice and fighting bad guys,” she writes. “They're convinced that I'm Captain Marvel. That keeps me going. I have to live up to that."