Despite outrage over school shooting, Uvalde residents voted to keep the state’s GOP in power
In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school in May, calls for gun-law reform reached a fever pitch as outraged Texans blamed state leaders and the firearm policies they champion for being partly responsible for the massacre.
On Tuesday, however, the outrage that still exists for some in the small community didn’t translate at the polls as incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott won Uvalde County over his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. The county also voted overwhelmingly to keep Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both Republicans.
The results spurred anger for some of the parents who lost children that day, when an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two schoolteachers at Robb Elementary School. The gunman was in the school for more than an hour before law enforcement confronted and finally shot and killed him.
“I wanted to send a message but, instead, the state of Texas sent me a message: my daughter’s murder wasn’t enough. Just know, you f****d with the wrong mom,” tweeted Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daughter Lexi died in the shooting. “It doesn’t end tonight. I’ll fight until I have nothing left to give. Lexi’s legacy will be change.”
Brett Cross, the uncle and guardian of Uziyah Garcia, who died in the shooting, joined Mata-Rubio in promising to keep pressure on elected officials. Cross was Garcia’s uncle and guardian but refers to him as his son.
“Disappointed? Yes. Will we stop fighting absolutely [not]. This just lit a bigger fire under our asses. What I am the most disappointed in is Uvalde County voting for Abbott,” he tweeted, and included a photo with the #Uvaldestrong hashtag upside down.
Henry Flores, a distinguished university research professor emeritus at St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, said that while the shooting was horrific, he wasn’t surprised at the results in Uvalde.
“It makes sense, given its conservative nature, that they would support Abbott,” he said. “As far as the gun control issue, you get to the rural areas [and] the gun control issue itself becomes kind of fuzzy. A lot of folks are gun owners in the rural areas. And any little suspicion that someone is going to pass laws to take away their weapons, and they’ll turn on you.”
Uvalde supporting Republicans isn’t an anomaly. In 2018, the most recent midterm election, voters supported Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz over O’Rourke by about 10 percentage points. Abbott fared even better that year: He won the county by more than 20 percentage points. In 2020, former President Donald Trump took the county by more than 20 percentage points.
Flores said that the outrage in Uvalde wasn’t just about gun laws, but law enforcement’s botched response to the shooting. Subsequent investigations would show that hundreds of officers waited more than an hour to confront the gunman while children in the 4th grade classroom where he was holed up called 911, Texas Public Radio reported. A Texas House report found there were more than 370 law enforcement officers on the scene, including 150 U.S. Border Patrol agents, 91 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, 25 Uvalde police officers, 16 county sheriff's deputies, and five officers from the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
“If you look at the complaints by the families of how law enforcement covered the issue, they wanted them going in there, shooting and taking that guy out sooner than they did,” Flores said. “They didn't want him arrested alive. They're complaining they didn't take action sooner.”
Although they’d hoped for different results on Tuesday, relatives and friends of the victims did achieve what they considered partial victories earlier this year. Last month, officials with the Uvalde school district announced that it suspended its police force and that two high-ranking officials have been placed on administrative leave.
And in August, the school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, was fired for his role in the response.
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