(UVALDE, Texas) — Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke rolled out an ad campaign Saturday featuring tearful endorsements from families of victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.
One ad begins with parents looking straight to the camera, holding photos of their children and sharing what they hoped to do when they grew up: Lexi Rubio wanted to be a lawyer, Jackie Cazares hoped to become a veterinarian and Layla Salazar, a track star.
Another ad solely focuses on Maite Rodriguez, whose mother, Ana Rodriguez, stoically narrates the video.
“She wore green Converse with the heart drawn on the right toe. Those shoes ended up being one way to identify her body in that classroom. I never want another family to go through this. Greg Abbott has done nothing to stop the next shooting. No laws passed. Nothing to keep kids safe in school. So, I’m voting Beto for Maite,” Ana Rodriguez says in the video.
Beto for Texas’ director of communications, Chris Evans, told ABC News the ads are running in all major markets across the state of Texas indefinitely.
Uvalde families have continued to voice how unheard they feel by their representatives as they plead for gun control statewide and nationally. Parents have spoken publicly about wanting commonsense gun legislation, and their calls on Abbott to convene a special session have gone unanswered.
Nineteen students and two teachers died at the hands of a gunman on May 24. The police response to the shooting has come under intense scrutiny after it was revealed that officers did not breach the classroom containing the gunman for over an hour. The response also spurred a Texas House investigation that published a damning report in July outlining law enforcement’s failures.
The ad campaign began just one day after the first and only Texas gubernatorial debate between O’Rourke and incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott, which notably featured many questions to both candidates on the topic of the shooting in Uvalde. The entire debate was less than an hour in duration, and the Uvalde-related discussion comprised more than 10 minutes of it.
Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas-Austin, told ABC News that according to his research and expertise, he does not see Uvalde heavily influencing the upcoming election.
“As horrific as that may sound, polling has consistently shown that in the wake of mass shootings, and even mass shootings as horrific as the one that occurred in Uvalde, that partisan voters tend to look to partisan interpretations of those events. And so, while we might expect to see large shifts in sentiment in the wake of these tragedies, we tend not to find them,” Blank said.
A Quinnipiac University poll last month found that the top three issues likely voters in Texas saw as most urgent were the Texas-Mexico border, at 38%, followed by abortion (17%) and inflation (11%). Gun policy garnered 8%, according to the poll, illustrating Blank’s point.
Blank also said partisan voters approach solutions to gun violence differently.
“I think the issue is that voters of different persuasions come to the issue of gun violence and gun safety with a different set of expectations about what would be effective in addressing the pandemic or the epidemic of gun violence,” Blank said.
One of the key issues of O’Rourke’s campaign platform is gun safety. He’s made it clear he believes significant policy reform is the answer, in forms such as “red flag” laws, universal background checks and a repeal of permitless carry. Abbott, conversely, says he “will continue to fight any federal government overreach that aims to disrupt the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding Texans,” according to his website. His stance has also been illustrated by his passage of open and campus carry across the state during his tenure as governor.
Even if many agree that gun violence is an issue Texas officials should do more to prevent, Blank said this “doesn’t mean that a majority of Texans think that the policy response that would be most effective necessarily has to do with stricter gun laws.”
In the Quinnipiac poll, likely voters were also asked, between Abbott and O’Rourke, who would do a better job handling gun policy; 53% said the sitting governor would do a better job, while 44% responded that O’Rourke would.
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