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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. WAMPLER Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary, speaks Monday Nov. 11, 2019 at the annual Reagan Day Dinner of the Republicans of Benton County held at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers.

HOT SPRINGS -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a scathing rebuke of Democrats while praising her former boss -- President Donald Trump -- during a Republican fundraiser at the Arlington Hotel on Tuesday night, but she made no mention of rumors that she is considering a bid for the Governor's Mansion.

The former White House press secretary, who returned to her home state earlier this year, declined to address such speculation when asked about it by reporters earlier this month.

"My focus, on all elections right now, is 2020," Huckabee said at the time.

Addressing those elections at the Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner on Tuesday, Sanders urged supporters of the Republican Party of Garland County to vote for Trump in the presidential primaries in March, and she gave an extra plug to Arkansas Supreme Court candidate Barbara Webb. She's the wife of Doyle Webb, chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas. Her opponent is Pulaski County Circuit Judge Morgan "Chip" Welch. Judicial races are nonpartisan.

"We were joking that there's only two people you probably really have to get out to vote for in March," Sanders said. "That's Donald Trump and Barbara Webb."

Sanders' appearance in Hot Springs is one of several she has scheduled this fall at GOP fundraisers across the state. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette previously reported that Sanders has waived her $55,000 speaker's fee to appear at such events.

In addition to the $50-a-plate price to hear Sanders speak, she helped acquire a "Make America Great Again" hat signed by Vice President Mike Pence that the county party auctioned off for $750.

Much of her speech focused on moments from the nearly two years she spent as Trump's press secretary. Her mention of "battles with the media" drew applause from the diners.

Sanders even offered some humor at the president's expense.

Recalling a Saturday afternoon that had been largely uneventful, Sanders said she checked her phone to see it inundated with frantic messages from reporters.

"Had the president said something? Had we been attacked?" Sanders recalled thinking. "Either one of those things is very possible."

As it turns out, Sanders said, her son Huck had gotten access to her phone and sent out a nonsensical tweet full of emojis to her followers, prompting press queries about the intent of the message.

"The chaos at the White House was nothing compared to the chaos at my house," Sanders said.

In addition to her levity, Sanders offered a defense of Trump, promising "real chaos" in the form of higher taxes, stricter gun control and greater access to abortion if Democrats are elected to positions of leadership.

She made no mention of the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats looking into Trump's requests that members of the Ukrainian government investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, his potential political rival in 2020.

Trump, for his part, has offered words of support for Sanders.

In a June tweet announcing Sanders' departure from his administration, Trump added, "I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas -- she would be fantastic."

Sanders' father, Mike Huckabee, served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007.

Other names floated as potential gubernatorial candidates on the Republican ticket in 2022 include Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Senate President Pro Tempore Jim Hendren. Rutledge was also in attendance Tuesday night at the Garland County dinner, but she did not speak.

Metro on 11/20/2019

Print Headline: At GOP event, Sanders talks of '20 races

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