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A woman is running for mayor of Uvalde in honor of daughter killed in school shooting

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, 34, is running for mayor of Uvalde, Texas, in honor of her daughter, Lexi, who was killed in a school shooting at Robb Elementary School in May 2022.
Ana Coronado
Kimberly Mata-Rubio, 34, is running for mayor of Uvalde, Texas, in honor of her daughter, Lexi, who was killed in a school shooting at Robb Elementary School in May 2022.

Kimberly Mata-Rubio, 34, is running for mayor of Uvalde, Texas, in honor of her daughter, Lexi, who was 10 years old when she was killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24, 2022. Mata-Rubio says she hopes to bring the fractured community back together.

After losing her daughter last year, Rubio became a champion for change in Texas as the president of Lives Robbed, a nonprofit founded by the families of the Uvalde victims who are fighting to reduce gun violence through legislation. Now she wants to focus on healing her community, which she says is still reeling from the tragedy.

The town of some 15,000 residents has been divided about what comes next, Mata-Rubio says. And if elected, her top priority will be bridging that gap.

"There are some residents who just want to move on and keep everything under the rug, and those of us who want to move forward, but take the children and the two teachers with us," she tells NPR. "And I think that there just need to be open lines of communication, and that is possible, so I want the right leadership in place."

Whoever is elected in the current race will only hold office for a year before having to run for reelection.

Uvalde's current mayor, Don McLaughlin, announced earlier this month that he's stepping down after nearly 10 years to run for the Texas House of Representatives. The city council this week set a special election for Nov. 7.

As of now, says Mata-Rubio, who is running as a Democrat, her only competition is the town's former mayor, Republican Cody Smith. Other candidates have until September to file.

Mata-Rubio says she has always been interested in participating in local government, but was reluctant to run at first. Then her husband, Felix Rubio, told her to go for it, to step up as a leader and become the town's first female mayor.

"'You're right, I can. I need to do the change I seek,'" she recalls telling her husband. "And that was my defining moment."

Mata-Rubio says her mayoral run is in honor of Lexi's life.

"She's no longer here to make a name for herself and it's up to me to share her story, and I think that I want to honor her by bringing about change at the local level, the state level, at the federal level," she says. "This is a stepping stone for me. I am determined."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.