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U.S. Senate Democratic candidate M.J. Hegar speaks to guests during a Denton County Democratic Party meet-and-greet Thursday at Music City Mall in Lewisville.

This article has been corrected to reflect that though MJ Hegar has not advocated for the impeachment of President Trump, she has stated previously of supporting an impeachment inquiry.

LEWISVILLE — Several local Democratic candidates shared the spotlight during Thursday afternoon’s meet-and-greet hosted by the Denton County Democratic Party.

MJ Hegar, from Round Rock, was the headline speaker. She is vying to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Austin. She previously ran an unsuccessful congressional bid against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

The former military pilot, who received both a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross, opened her speech Thursday with appeals to hope and references to her military service. It didn’t take long before she began to criticize, in no uncertain terms, President Donald Trump and his administration’s policies, especially those surrounding the detention of migrant children, a topic she returned to several times.

She portrayed herself as a warrior and mother who would rather be at home than on the campaign trail, as someone who has had to fight against adversity much of her life and isn’t planning on slowing down now.

“When I look at D.C., from a nonpartisan perspective, I don’t see Texas values represented,” Hegar said after her speech.

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U.S. Senate Democratic candidate M.J. Hegar speaks to guests during a Denton County Democratic Party meet-and-greet Thursday at Music City Mall in Lewisville.

Among those values, she listed independent thinking, fortitude and transparency.

During her time on stage, Hegar advocated for the abolishment of open carry gun laws — saying that carrying an automatic rifle to a festival is “an assault on bystanders” — and the importance of flipping Texas for the Democrats as a way to block Trump's reelection. 

She did not advocate for impeachment, but she has previously supported an impeachment inquiry

Fewer than 20 people attended the event, which was held inside Lewisville’s Music City Mall. Joel Ortega, candidate for Lewisville school board and Thursday’s master of ceremonies, described them as a small, passionate crowd of political junkies. Early voting for the March 3 primaries begins in mid-February.

Ortega said a few people suspected of being political “trackers” were asked to leave before the event got going. Trackers are a subset of political activists who record opposition politicians and edit the footage in order to harm them politically.

While he said their presence doesn’t bother him, at least one of the candidates present preferred they not be allowed into the event.

One attendee was Paige Dixon of Lewisville, who hopes to win the election for Texas’ State House District 65, which is currently held by Democrat Michelle Beckley. Other local candidates included Angela Brewer, who hopes to unseat Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, in Texas House District 64; and Delia Parker-Mims of Lewisville, who is running for county commissioner for Precinct 3, a spot currently held by Lewisville Republican Bobbie Mitchell.

Dixon, also a veteran, said she became politically active after the 2016 presidential election. She spoke about the need to fight for minority and LGBT rights, as well as the need for more funding in Lewisville ISD.

Brewer, a communications professor at the University of North Texas, spent much of her time talking about health care and the importance of advocating for university students in Denton, something she said Stucky has not done a good enough job of. Stucky sits on the higher education committee.

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Denton County Commissioner Precinct 3 candidate Delia Parker-Mims speaks to guests during a Denton County Democratic Party meet-and-greet Thursday at Music City Mall in Lewisville.

Parker-Mims used her time onstage to say Denton County commissioners should be doing more community outreach for vulnerable populations. If elected, she said she would work to address voting deserts in the county.

Toward the end of her time on stage, Hegar, using language familiar to those who followed the 2018 political campaigns, urged Democrats to look at a potential “blue wave” as an opportunity, not a certainty.

“We have the opportunity, and, frankly, that opportunity is ours to seize or to miss,” she said. “And we’ll miss it if we’re not reaching out to people — if we’re not open and having conversations and giving people grace.”

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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