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Uvalde families set sights on next steps after midterm losses

 Family members of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting march in Uvalde on July 10, 2022.
Camille Phillips
/
TPR
Family members of the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting march in Uvalde on July 10, 2022.

One week has passed since Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, was elected for a third term after beating Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

The news made many Republicans celebrate. But in Uvalde, the home to the deadliest school shooting in Texas, some families were outraged since none of their preferred candidates locally — or statewide — won.

Manuel Rizo, the uncle of 9-year-old victim Jacklyn, said he was disappointed, but not completely surprised about the election results.

“The Uvalde tragedy was not enough for people to come out and vote with their moral compass in their heart,” Rizo said. “We should have known that since five other mass shootings in Texas since 2015 did not make a difference — it only made noise.”

Javier Cazares, the father of Jacklyn, shared the sentiment. He said that this election confirmed what he already knew: The Uvalde community is divided.

After he lost his daughter, Cazares launched a write-in campaign to oust incumbent Uvalde County Commissioner Mariano Pargas who was the acting Uvalde city police chief the day of the shooting.

But last week, Pargas won reelection. Another write-in candidate, Julio Valde, got second place. Cazares came in third.

“I thought it would have been a little bit different, as far as the results went, but it is what it is, you know,” Cazares said. “There’s always been in the back of my mind, you know, (that) it could go bad, and just knowing just the way things have gone from Day One, there was always something that tends not to go our way.”

But he said he is not completely defeated.

“I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing,” Cazares said. “We’ve already made some changes here in town.”

Despite the Robb Elementary school tragedy, the political losses in Uvalde are not surprising.

While many Uvalde families backed Democratic candidates, the city and the county have been a Republican bastion. The county has supported Republican statewide candidates election after election. In 2020, former President Trump won by 20 points.

Henry Flores, a political consultant and an emeritus professor of political science at St. Mary’s University School of Law, said Uvalde Republicans out-voted Democrats this election by about 2,000 votes.

Flores told The Texas Newsroom that Cazares’ loss in the race for county commissioner was, in part, the product of running as a write-in candidate.

“Very rarely, except in an extremely small community, maybe like a county like Loving, can you really run a successful write-in campaign because you know everybody, and you speak to them personally, because it requires special instructions on how to do it,” Flores said. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020 Loving County had 64 residents.)

Now, Flores said parents in Uvalde need to think of how to increase their political clout as they move forward.

“They got organized too late in the election, and they need to really start like now planning the election in two years,” Flores said.

And some say they will do that.

Rizo, Jacklyn’s uncle, told The Texas Newsroom he plans to rest for now, and then focus on organizing around changing the state’s gun laws, including raising the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21.

He also said the families will continue their calls for accountability from law enforcement who responded to the shooting.

“You only live once,” Rizo said. “And if you do it right, once is enough.”

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.