Democrat running for Uvalde House seat blasts report on school shooting

A Democrat running to represent Uvalde, Texas, in Congress blasted the latest report into the 2022 school shooting as an insult to grieving families and criticized one of his Republican rivals as a would-be “Rambo” who is a poor role model for teenagers.

Santos Limon, who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the state’s 23rd District, spoke Friday in a wide-ranging phone interview about the election, the Uvalde mass shooting, the role of Elon Musk in Texas politics and other subjects.

Limon faces an uphill fight in the West Texas district, which Republicans have represented for years, but he said he likes his odds because of his own conservative views and because Republicans are sharply divided. Republicans will decide their nominee in a May 28 runoff primary between the incumbent, Tony Gonzales, and Brandon Herrera, a popular creator of gun videos for YouTube.

Santos Limon. (Courtesy Santos Limon)

Santos Limon. (Courtesy Santos Limon)

Guns are a major subject in the race in part because the district includes Uvalde. Nineteen students and two teachers died at the town’s Robb Elementary School nearly two years ago.

On Thursday, the Uvalde City Council published its report into the massacre and the delayed law enforcement response. The report said there was no evidence of police wrongdoing or failure to follow training, and it criticized parents who tried to get into the building during the shooting.

Parents and residents responded to the report with anger and disbelief at a council meeting with Jesse Prado, an Austin-based investigator who wrote the City Council’s report.

Limon said the residents were justified in their anger.

“He was blaming the parents because they were making chaos outside and, again, there was close to 400 officers inside that building while kids were being massacred,” he said.

An earlier federal investigation was much harsher on local law enforcement than the Prado report was, saying children’s lives may have been saved if officers had responded differently.

Limon said Prado, who did not take questions at Thursday’s council meeting, was disrespectful.

“He didn’t even have the decency to take off his cowboy hat in a room full of people that are still grieving,” Limon said. “It’s an insult to the victims and to the survivors.”

Some news coverage of the meeting took note of the fact that Prado did not remove his hat.

In a phone interview Friday, Prado said he kept his hat on indoors so he could see. He said he’s had several surgeries that sometimes cause him to see a halo.

“There was no intention to insult anyone,” he said. “I really wanted to see the people that were speaking.” He declined to comment on the 182-page report.

Limon said he’d favor a national version of a Florida law barring people under age 21 from buying a gun. Florida passed the law in 2018 after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The Uvalde shooter bought his gun as an 18-year-old.

“How is it that a state so Republican like Florida is able to pass a gun bill?” Limon asked. “Why don’t they do that here in Texas? Or why don’t they do that across the country?”

He said he’s frustrated that the U.S. has been debating school shootings since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre with no obvious progress to show for it.

“It’s the same topics over and over and over and over. No one’s listening to our constituents, and they’ve caught on,” he said.

Guns have also been a topic in the Republican primary in the 23rd District. Gonzales was one of 14 House Republicans to vote for a gun safety law after Uvalde, while Herrera has condemned provisions of the law as unconstitutional. Herrera calls himself a Second Amendment “absolutist.”

Herrera, through a spokesperson, declined an interview request Friday. Gonzales did not respond to interview requests Wednesday or Friday.

YouTuber and Congressional candidate Brandon Herrera. (WOAI-TV)

YouTuber and Congressional candidate Brandon Herrera. (WOAI-TV)

Herrera has risen to popularity on the success of YouTube, where he posts videos about firearms including machine guns to 3.2 million subscribers. Using the nickname “The AK Guy,” Herrera makes and often praises the Kalashnikov-style rifles that originated in the Soviet Union.

Limon said Herrera reminded him of the Rambo movies starring Sylvester Stallone.

“It’s like watching Rambo ‘First Blood’ when he was out there with that .50-caliber gun,” he said. “Is that what our teenagers need to see? Our high school graduates, are they going to vote for a guy like that?”

Herrera imitates and talks about the Rambo character in at least one of his YouTube videos where he fires an M60 machine gun.

Limon, 50, has never run for office before, though he said as a 14-year-old he dreamed of being a mayor. He grew up in Del Rio, Texas, and now lives in San Antonio, working as a civil engineer on railroad projects.

He said he thinks his views are a match for the district that stretches from El Paso to the San Antonio area.

“I am a conservative Democrat. I’m an entrepreneur. I am pro-business. I am pro-choice. I am pro-Israel. I am pro-union. I am pro-teachers. I’m against [school] vouchers. I’m against charter schools,” he said.

Limon said that, like Republicans, he’s upset about the level of illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border. He said he favors relocating more immigration judges closer to the border so they can work more efficiently, and he criticized Republican immigration proposals as hollow.

“There are Republican friends who are using it as a stage,” he said of the border and specifically the city Eagle Pass.

The immigration issue has helped to pull Musk into the race. The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla appeared last year with Gonzales at the border, and Musk has become a rising figure in Texas politics as he has moved more of business operations to the state.

Limon said he considers Musk a “visionary” who could bring greater economic development to his district, but he also said politicians have failed to keep pace with Musk and other executives who have pursued swift technological change.

“They’re way ahead with their vision. We need someone to stay right parallel to them,” he said.

He said, for example, that he’d like to slow down deployment of self-driving big rigs and instead invest resources in infrastructure projects including for freight and passenger rail.

“Third World countries are catching up to our country because we keep playing politics,” he said. “All of us are fighting against each other while everybody else in the world is constructing and building.”

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