Denton County Republicans began their advance on the 2020 elections Saturday night during its annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner fundraiser in which Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, declared the party’s No. 1 goal should be to re-elect President Donald Trump to a new term.

“Be very afraid” of what the left can do was the message from Texas Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, moments after U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, gave an opening prayer that decried the “forces of evil” from the left ripping the country at its seams.

These Republicans walked away from the November elections minus a couple seats they’ve long held in Denton County. The message from party leaders was to dig in and fight with grit for 2020. The fundraiser’s theme was to “build a financial wall” around Denton County.

“Ron, we will bring you back next cycle,” state Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, said to Ron Simmons, the former state representative from Carrollton who lost his seat in November to a Democrat. “You can count on it.”

The event was held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denton Convention Center. It is the Denton County GOP’s largest political fundraiser, officials say.

On a night when dozens of elected officials mingled with voters, election volunteers and guest speakers, Denton County Republican Party Chairwoman Jayne Howell attempted to remove credentialed Denton Record-Chronicle journalists from the party’s fundraiser.

Howell was texting with a convention center staffer saying a credentialed photographer and a credentialed reporter covering the event were not allowed to be in a banquet room as hundreds of people listened to officials and conservative thinkers and entertainers. In a departure from years past, when the newspaper had covered the annual fundraiser without incident, Howell said only people who paid to attend the event could be in the room.

That was despite the Record-Chronicle having been pre-approved to cover the event by Jenny Harris, the party’s news media chairwoman. Howell, who was elected party chairwoman last year, later apologized and called it all a miscommunication.

After being escorted out by a convention center staffer and two Denton County constables, the journalists were allowed back into the banquet room but were told to stand only at the back of the room.

The newspaper missed the entirety of Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s speech and a large portion of Fox News regular and journalist Allie Stuckey’s speech.

Journalists were also the butt of at least one joke Saturday night, along with university professors and academics. Conservative entertainer Evan Sayet, in a humorous bit about how the “modern liberal is the stupidest person who ever lived,” said liberals flock to journalism because journalists don’t do anything productive.

“It’s so obvious that the journalist doesn’t do anything that you could remove their bodies and they’d still be able to do their job, which is why we call them talking heads,” Sayet joked.

Following Sayet’s motivational speech and stand-up routine, county Republicans began a live auction in which items — including a Holy Bible autographed by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — were sold to benefit the county’s campaign efforts.

DALTON LAFERNEY can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @daltonlaferney.

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