Abbott meeting with Uvalde victims, families under scrutiny

The Republican is locked in a heated reelection bid.

August 13, 2022, 6:40 PM

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Uvalde amid growing criticism of his level of engagement with a community still reeling from the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The Republican governor met with families of the 21 victims on Friday, his office confirmed to ABC News. Arriving Friday morning at the town's municipal airport, Abbott said, "I'm here to help out the folks of Uvalde."

But some have accused Abbott, who is currently in the throes of a heated reelection bid, of ulterior motives in quietly engaging with family members of the victims. State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio, suggested that the governor's visit might have been a political calculation -- particularly given his hesitancy to heed their calls for gun reform.

Mementos decorate a makeshift memorial to the victims of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, June 30, 2022.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

"It is campaign season, so now, Governor Abbott is checking a box to say he met with families," Gutierrez told ABC News. "He needs to do something real for them."

Javier Cazares, whose daughter Jackie Cazares was killed in the Robb shooting, was among those who met with Abbott on Friday. Cazares said he and others took the opportunity to ask questions about school safety and again propose raising the age limit to purchase assault rifles. Cazares said the governor took notes but did not answer their questions directly.

"We just wanted to have a chance to ask him some questions," Cazares told ABC News.

Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Abbott, confirmed Abbott's travel to Uvalde in a statement to ABC News and said the governor has "[visited] with every family who requested a meeting."

"Governor Abbott visited Uvalde today and over the past several weeks, meeting with over 30 victims' families privately to ensure they are receiving all the resources and support needed to heal," Eze said.

Abbott has attracted the ire of some in Uvalde who perceive his posture toward the community as aloof and distant. Some family members were disappointed when Abbott did not attend any funeral services for the victims. Others cited news reports indicating that Abbott attended a political fundraiser on the night of the shooting.

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for governor, has visited Uvalde five times since May 24 and has also criticized Abbott for his response to the shooting.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on March 10, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference, March 10, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas.
The Monitor via AP, FILE

Eze, the Abbott spokesperson, said "many families requested private funerals, and the Governor and First Lady instead sent flowers and condolences to let the loved ones know they remain in their prayers."

In July, Angel Garza, father of victim Amerie Jo Garza, told ABC News: "Governor Abbott has yet to reach out." And Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said in mid-July that he had not been in touch with Abbott in the prior four weeks.

Eze pushed back on complaints that Abbott has not sufficiently engaged with the community.

"The Governor has been to the community every month since the tragedy," Eze said. "Governor Abbott and his office remain in regular contact with local leaders to ensure all immediate needs for victims' families and the Uvalde community are being met..