Gloves Off Early in TX 31 Congressional Race

Campaign signs from Congressman John Carter along with other Republican candidates dominated the landscape of the 31st District; which includes Williamson and Bell Counties.

It's a little difficult to find yard signs for his Democrat Party challenger, MJ Hegar. But don’t mistake that for a lack of urgency. In her Round Rock office, a clock counts down to election day.  

"Every time we start laughing or taking a break, something like that, somebody usually points to the clock and we get back to work,” said Hegar.

MJ Hagar is a former air force pilot who flew missions in Iraq. She got into the national spotlight after being part of an effort that forced the government to allow women into combat units. That fight was just one reason why she decided to run for Congress.  

"I'm doing it because of my family, quite frankly,” said Hegar.

Congressman John Carter has also had a life of service. The eight term incumbent was also a District Court Judge in Williamson County. When he sat down with FOX-7 Austin, Rep. Carter had this to say about his November opponent.

"I respect her service, I respect her sacrifice that she was wounded, I don't respect her policy I don't respect statements that are untrue,” said Carter.

The bad feelings are about claims in Hegar's campaign ads Carter was accused of refusing to speak with Hegar about changing the combat policy. The following is a quote from one of Hegar’s ads.

"One of those closed doors was my congressman. apparently being his constituent and a veteran wasn't enough to get a meeting, I guess I also needed to be a donor,” said Hegar in her ad.

The congressman admits there was no face to face but said Hegar met with his staff because at the time he was in budget meetings.

"So I did not refuse her, I’ve never asked anybody not just her, but anybody else for a campaign contribution to do work for them,” said Carter.

Hegar has doubled down on the perceived snub. She continues to hammer Carter for speaking to civic groups when in District and not holding any open mic town hall meetings.

"It’s not just me, I’m not taking it personal, there's an article where's Carter because he won't meet with media, he won't meet with constituents, unless you are a donor,” said Hegar.

That accusation, of quid pro quo, is something Carter strongly denies. 

The two also have different takes on the current economic policy. 

"We've got the economy rolling; we don't need to go back to a stagnant era again. And we need to keep going forward,” said Carter.

Hegar contends there are those who are missing out.

"The good news, we hear around the country with the economy is not making it to my District,” said Hegar.

On hard core issues like abortion Carter and Hager walk the party line. But on issues like marijuana that line gets a little blurry. Hager supports full legalization, while Carter has said he's open to legalizing marijuana, but only if it can be proven there is a medical use. 

Fort Hood is a big part of the 31st Congressional District. As expected Carter and Hegar pledge to keep the military strong.

"So I'm going to continue to supporting investment in military technology, but I feel like we don’t take care of our greatest asset, and that is the people in the military,” said Hegar.

As an example of his support of the military, Congressman Carter noted his involvement in a life and death struggle that one veteran had with the VA. The fight was the focus of a series of investigative reports by FOX-7's Rebecca Thomas and involved who pays for transplants when the donor has no military background. The problem prompted legislative action by Carter.

"It took me a lot of doors to pound on but we got it done and now the donors are now covered as are the Veterans,” said Carter.

Hegar's top agenda item, if elected, is broadband internet expansion.

"The first thing I’m going to try to do is get infrastructure investment in my District,” said Hegar. 

Border security is also important to the candidates - and both agree immigration reform is key to securing the border. What to do first - is where the two part ways.

"It's easier to come across, sneak across, and try not to get caught, than it is to go through the process to come in here legally, in many instances, we need to fix that,” said Carter.

Hegar is upset with how the current Administration is handling immigration.

"We must have a pathway to citizenship as well, you hear people all the time say go get in line and do it right, then we have these lines, where people can do it right, like military service, and we are trying to block those as well,” said Hegar.

As for education, Carter and Hegar both support expanding VO-Tech programs. They both also want to address the high cost of getting a college education.

The 31st Congressional race also includes libertarian candidate Jason Hope. Fox7 Austin was unable to schedule an on camera interview with hope. On his Facebook page- hope stated he wants to revitalize local - constitutional militia.

He promises to abstain from voting on anything that violates what’s called the non-aggression principal. He has also pledged, if elected, to give more than half of his salary for programs to help military veterans with PTSD.