(UVALDE, Texas) — Some Uvalde families spent their days and nights over the past several months rallying, marching, tweeting, camping out and protesting in the hope that their fellow Texans would hear their cries for gun reform and vote for Democrat Beto O’Rourke for Texas governor.
But Tuesday’s election showed their actions in their community weren’t loud enough: Republican Gov. Greg Abbott garnered more than 60% of the vote in Uvalde County and is projected to win the race and be reelected as governor.
While some families told ABC News they were disappointed in local results, they weren’t necessarily surprised. While every American had something important to them on the ballot this midterm election, Uvalde families had something very personal.
On May 24, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School, a devastating tragedy that unraveled the tight-knit community. From a botched police response to a prolonged investigation, to the suspensions and firings of personnel in their school district, the town went from a dot on the map most Texans couldn’t identify to a household name in the United States.
Some of the victims’ families turned to advocacy as they were fueled by a passion to never let another family go through what they did. They spent night after night demanding answers from their community leaders, tweeting about their grief and rage, and flying to Washington, D.C., to march on Capitol Hill for gun reform.
Some families campaigned for O’Rourke, accompanying him to rallies and participating in a campaign ad where they tearfully pleaded for their fellow Texans to vote for him on behalf of their lost loved ones.
But first, he rallied for them. In the wake of the shooting, O’Rourke established himself as a stalwart supporter of the victims’ families and their cries for gun reform.
While O’Rourke scrambled to make it on a plane to get to Uvalde from New York on May 24, some later scrutinized Abbott and accused him of ulterior motives in quietly engaging with family members of the victims in August, more than two-and-a-half months after the massacre. Like many Uvalde families — and unlike Abbott — O’Rourke called for universal background checks, “red flag” laws and raising the gun purchasing age from 18 to 21.
But, as Tuesday’s projected results showed, that wasn’t the case for the majority of Texas. As Uvaldeans stood outside the Uvalde Leader-News’ office in their picturesque town square on a beautiful autumn evening, they watched a white dry-erase board fill up with handwritten data favoring a Republican victory.
Veronica Mata, the mother to Tess Mata, a Robb Elementary School victim, said she didn’t expect Abbott to win.
“It was real sadness and disappointment. I really thought that everything they saw our kids go through, that Texas was gonna want to make a change,” she told ABC News on a call Wednesday afternoon.
Kimberly Rubio, mother to Lexi Rubio, another young victim of the massacre, said she saw an Abbott win coming.
“I am disappointed but not surprised that Texas reelected Abbott; however, I am appalled that Uvalde turned out for Abbott,” she wrote in a message to ABC News. “This is our community. Friends, neighbors, watched as the tragedy of May 24 unfolded. Uvaldeans stopped to watch 21 funeral processions. They’ve witnessed Abbott stand by and do nothing for the victims’ families. I thought this community would stand with us as we fought for change, accountability. I thought they’d help us pick up the pieces. Instead, this community is adding to our hurt.”
An upside-down “#UvaldeStrong” photo circulated among some of the families’ Twitter profiles, symbolizing their anger toward their own community for their choice of governor.
Faith Mata, Veronica’s eldest daughter and Tess’ older sister, tweeted the day after Election Day, saying: “I hate Texas and especially Uvalde. Can’t believe all these people claimed to be ‘Uvalde Strong.’ Disgusting is what it is. Can’t believe the death of children in your own hometown wasn’t enough for you. Tess & the 20 other lives don’t deserve this. Our fight isn’t over!”
“It makes you think, why wasn’t it enough? Did we not do enough?” Faith told ABC News on a call Wednesday.
But Faith’s hope is not lost, as she plans to continue to push Abbott to raise the gun purchasing age.
“You can’t really go into the next fight, or the next rally, or the next march if you’re not having hope,” she said.
Where Faith finds hope, she said, is in her sister Tess, and making sure what happened to her never happens to another little girl.
Her mom agreed.
“We’re gonna continue fighting for those kids that are still in school and for those teachers, and, hopefully, we can get some kind of change,” Veronica Mata said.
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