Rhonda Hart, who lost her daughter in the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, is launching a bid for Congress.
Hart, a Democrat, plans to run against incumbent U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, a Friendswood Republican who has represented the Galveston area in Congress since 2013. His deep-red district stretches from Lake Jackson to Port Arthur and Beaumont.
Hart said she has been seriously considering a run for Congress since last summer, when she met with Weber in his D.C. office to talk about gun violence prevention bills that lawmakers were considering after the May 2022 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
One of the measures included the Kimberly Vaughan Firearm Safe Storage Act, named for Hart’s daughter, that would have required some gun manufacturers to provide buyers with educational materials about safely storing a firearm. The bill also would have raised the minimum age to purchase semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, among other changes.
Hart asked Weber for his support. She said the congressman told her he would not vote for the bill and admitted he had not read it.
“I was floored,” Hart, an Army veteran and former school bus driver, said in an interview. “He attended my daughter’s funeral. Her bill was a simple, commonsense measure.”
Weber’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The congressman voted against the bill, which he called “another attempt by Democrats to strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights.” The measure narrowly passed the House but did not advance in the Senate.
Weber also voted against the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that Congress passed a few weeks later. That bill, negotiated by Texas’ senior Sen. John Cornyn, implemented modest changes, including stronger background checks for young gun buyers.
“We should be pushing commonsense legislation through Congress rather than going down a slippery slope of government control over our God-given rights,” Weber said at the time. “In my district, we understand that evil people do evil things. Still, you don’t restrict law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves with the weapons of their choice from evil people who do evil things.”
It’ll be an uphill battle for Hart to reach Washington. Donald Trump easily won the 14th Congressional District in the 2020 election, and Weber was re-elected with 70 percent of the vote in 2022. The congressman, in a video announcing his bid for re-election next year, said he will “fiercely fight for the conservative values that have always defined us.”
But Hart said she’s up for the challenge. Over the past five years, she has been an outspoken advocate in Washington and at the Texas Capitol for stricter gun laws and school safety legislation.
I fall irrationally in love with longshot candidates who are also stellar people on the regular; Dayna Steele still has a piece of my heart from 2018. I’m romantic enough to want more good people in public office, and there’s nothing wrong with a little dreaming, regardless of the numbers. I’m also always on the lookout for some combination of issues and qualities – and badness of opponents; Randy Weber was known as one of the bigger jackasses in the Lege when he was there – that suggests the needle can be moved. Looks like I have my candidate for this cycle. Godspeed, Rhonda Hart.