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Father of 9-year-old killed in Uvalde massacre is running for local office

Jenny Wagnon-Courts/ABC News

(UVALDE, Texas) — “It all goes back to the day of the tragedy,” Javier Cazares, father of 9-year-old Jacklyn Cazares, who was killed in the Robb Elementary School mass shooting, told ABC News.

Javier Cazares is running as a write-in candidate for Uvalde County commissioner in Precinct 2.

“I’m a parent first and my main goal is to fight for what’s right; to do what needs to be done around here,” he said. “Not just for my daughter and her friends who passed, but also for her classmates who survived.”

A cook-off event to kick off Javier Cazares’ campaign took place on Saturday and welcomed community members and several of the self-proclaimed Angel Families who also lost loved ones during the massacre on May 24.

Nikki Cross, aunt and guardian of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia who was also killed at Robb, said she’s confident that Javier Cazares will represent the interests of the families affected by the tragedy. “As a grieving father, he’s got a lot of passion for change,” Cross told ABC News. “He’s just what we need.”

Cazares’s family, among many others from Uvalde, have been to the Texas State Capitol in Austin and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to call for stricter gun control in the wake of the shooting.

Javier Cazares is a longtime gun owner and has never held political office. He’s advocating for what he calls “common sense gun laws,” such as expanding background checks to include juvenile records and lifting the purchasing age restriction to 21.

“After the Parkland shooting in Florida, they were able to change the [state] laws within three months,” he told ABC News. “I’ve never thought about politics, but I want to fight for change and speak for the unheard voices.”

At the cook-off event, the Cazareses set up a rock-painting station for supporters to make decorative rocks for Jacklyn’s rock garden.

Jazmin Cazares, Javier’s older daughter, was there supporting her dad. “It’s not just his kids he’s looking out for — it’s everyone’s kids,” she told ABC News. “Because you don’t want to lose your kid the way my parents have.”

Among other write-in candidates, Javier Cazares is running against incumbent Mariano Pargas Jr. — the acting city police chief on the day of the shooting. Pargas was placed on suspension after the Texas House committee investigating the tragedy released a damning 82-page report outlining the responding officers’ failures to protect students.

Pargas said he’s received support from community members despite the controversy, and hopes his 24-year tenure as county commissioner speaks for itself. “I hope people can remember the good things I’ve done for the community,” Pargas told ABC News. “I want to continue serving the community well.”

The commissioner said he’s proud of his work with low-income children, a community cleanup initiative and an ongoing road improvement plan.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the people — what they want,” Pargas said. “If they want a change, by all means.”

Meanwhile, at the cook-off, Javier Cazares said Pargas is not doing enough to facilitate change in Uvalde. “I’ve lived in this district for 10 years, and in that time there hasn’t been any change. We have bad roads, bad street lighting, nothing for kids to play on,” he said.

Berlinda Arreola, victim Amerie Jo Garza’s step-grandmother, addressed the crowd: “He may not have as much money in his pocket, but he will work hard for us.”

“No one works harder than an underdog,” she said, “and don’t forget, underdogs have won the Super Bowl.”

Javier’s wife, Gloria Cazares, added, “This is personal for him, and for all of us.”

When asked about his opposition, Pargas said he wishes Javier Cazares and the other write-in candidates the best and offered support if he loses to one of them. “Anything that I can do to help them out once they get into office, I’d be more than glad to,” he added.

The election will take place Nov. 8.

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