Texas Governor Abbott meets with Uvalde victims in scrutiny of community engagement

Texas Governor Greg Abbott visited 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 the families of the 21 victims on Friday, his office confirmed to ABC News. Arriving Friday morning at the city’s municipal airport, Abbott said, “I’m here to help the people of Uvalde.”

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

Memorabilia decorates 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’s campaign season, so now Governor Abbott is ticking a box to say he’s been meeting with families,” Gutierrez told ABC News. “He has to do something real for them.”

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

“We just wanted a chance to ask him a few questions,” Cazares told ABC News.

Renae Eze, spokeswoman for Abbott, confirmed Abbott’s trip to Uvalde in a statement to ABC News and said the governor had “[visited] with each family that has requested a meeting.”

“Governor Abbott visited Uvalde today and over the past few weeks, meeting privately with more than 30 families of victims to ensure they receive all the resources and support needed to heal,” said Eze.

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

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

PICTURED: Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference March 10, 2022 in Weslaco, Texas.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference, March 10, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas.

The monitor through AP, FILE

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

In July, Angel Garza, father of victim Amerie Jo Garza, told ABC News, “Governor Abbott hasn’t reached out yet.” And Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said in mid-July that he had not been in contact with Abbott in the previous four weeks.

Eze pushed back against complaints that Abbott hasn’t engaged enough with the community.

“The Governor has visited the community every month since the tragedy,” Eze said. “Governor Abbott and his office remain in regular contact with local leaders to ensure that all immediate needs of the families of the victims and the community of Uvalde are met.

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