GRAPEVINE — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz drew whoops, whistles and calls that he run for president Saturday night at the Denton County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner.
Cruz — who surged to national prominence with his fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act — roused the nearly 1,000 people during the dinner at the Hyatt Regency DFW with calls for a grassroots effort to put the country back on a path of prosperity.
“There will be another president, and that president may even be of another political party,” he told the crowd.
“Ted Cruz,” came a shout from the audience, to loud applause.
“Thank you,” he said.
Cruz sounded familiar themes in his nearly half-hour speech to the crowd before leaving to catch a plane.
He repeated his calls that Republicans fight for liberty, gun rights, the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service and the repeal of the health care act known as Obamacare.
“We have a path in front of us to unite Republicans, to unite this country,” he said. “The first thing we do is stand for liberty.”
He hit President Barack Obama on the health care act, national security and Benghazi, saying the president’s “pattern of lawlessness should trouble everyone.”
He ended on a positive note, however, urging the crowd to keep working on the causes they believe in.
“I’m incredibly optimistic about this country,” he said.
The packed ballroom included top GOP leaders, state and local candidates, local Republican leaders and everyday conservatives. All four candidates for lieutenant governor — incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and his three challengers, state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — attended the dinner.
Cruz was joined in speaking at the dinner by his father, Rafael Cruz, a businessman and pastor who lives in Denton County.
The elder Cruz also spoke earlier in the day at an all-day conference on conservative issues held by the Denton County Republican Party.
The elder Cruz urged the approximately 75 people in attendance during the conference to turn to their churches for political action and to honor the constitutional values on which the United States was formed.
Also speaking during the day was Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, who said suburban counties such as Denton and Collin are key to helping the GOP hold on to statewide offices.
Munisteri told the Denton Record-Chronicle that the GOP’s base is concentrated in the sparsely populated rural areas and in the growing suburban areas around larger cities.
“We’re incredibly challenged in the urban areas, and so much of our strength is in the suburban counties,” he said. “That’s why Denton and Collin [counties] are so important.”
Denton GOP Chairwoman Dianne Edmondson says the county has caught the attention of Republican candidates throughout the state, most of whom had tables set up outside the ballroom.
“Without Denton and Collin counties, nobody can win statewide,” she said.
DIANNA HUNT can be reached at 940-566-6884 or via Twitter at @DiannaHunt.