Her daughter was killed in the Uvalde shooting. Now she’s running for mayor

Kimberly Mata-Rubio
(Elana Marie / For De Los )
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Standing next to the larger-than-life mural of her daughter, Kimberly Mata-Rubio reflects on the months ahead. Surrounded by vibrant blue butterflies and warm, golden sunflowers, the smiling portrait of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio is one of 21 murals painted around Uvalde, Texas, all part of a community-wide memorial to the victims of the Robb Elementary School Shooting.

Since the murder of her daughter on May 24, 2022, Mata-Rubio has dedicated herself to activism. She and her husband, Felix — a former sheriff’s deputy who was restrained and prevented from entering the school when he arrived at the scene that day — have navigated their loss in part by joining the other families and loved ones of the 21 victims in the fight for gun reform.

She’s kept herself busy traveling to Washington, D.C., to march for her daughter, meet with lawmakers and testify before Congress. Her life has become a complex mix of grief and hope, and each new milestone reminds her that this isn’t what she thought her life would be. She’s traveled out of state more in the last year than she ever has, but now, she’s turning her focus back home.

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Late last month, Mata-Rubio announced her campaign for mayor of Uvalde.

“I think a lot of people attribute everything to strength, but I don’t necessarily think I’m a strong person,” she says. “I just think that I’m a determined person. And I am determined to make sure that this world remembers Lexi. I’m honoring her with action so that when you hear her name, you think of all the change that’s coming.”


The shockwaves felt in the days and months after last year’s shooting haven’t dissipated, Mata-Rubio says. Instead, they’ve continued to ripple through a community that’s been fractured by unexpected tragedy.

After Mayor Don McLaughlin announced he would be stepping down from office to run for the Texas House, Mata-Rubio began entertaining the idea of entering the race. She talked about her plans with her husband, who encouraged her to do it.

“No matter who is in office, I think there’s no way for us to move in any direction unless we all come together,” she says. “I think that I could be the bridge between the community and those of us who were affected, who lost a child or a loved one.”

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“We’re still waiting for the final report and calling for accountability in terms of the termination of officers who played a part in the failure that day,” Mata-Rubio says. “The community needs transparency and accountability. As a mom, as mayor, I would demand that from the people who serve our city.”

Becoming a public advocate for her daughter, and other victims of gun violence has opened Mata-Rubio’s eyes to the world of politics. She knows firsthand from meeting with lawmakers the amount of pushback that gun control advocates are up against.


“I don’t think that you can recognize the flaws in our system until you’re really in it,” she says, pointing toward the fact that most Americans are in favor of stricter gun laws. “Our lawmakers refuse to do anything, and that inaction has led to so many unnecessary deaths. We were met with roadblock after roadblock, but we’re never going to stop.”

Even prior to the shooting, Mata-Rubio says she and her husband were in support of an assault weapons ban. “We voted responsibly, and that wasn’t enough,” she says. “We still lost our child.”

Still, she acknowledges that her candidacy will face obstacles in a majority Republican county. Mata-Rubio was among the group of families who campaigned for Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign last year. But when all was said and done, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott secured 60% of the vote in Uvalde County.

“It’s a red state, it’s a red county,” she says. “We have a really low voter turnout, historically. That’s my focus with this campaign is going door to door, getting people to come out and have their voice heard. If I want to win, it’s going to have to be because there was a larger voter turnout.”

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Mata-Rubio says she wasn’t expecting as strong of a response to her candidacy as the one she received, but the feedback she’s heard so far has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are fed up, and they’re opening their eyes,” she says. “Once you enter this gun violence prevention world, you realize how many people are fighting behind the scenes. My hope is to get that message across and have more people join our efforts.”

As she gears up for the election in November, she’s been strategizing her outreach efforts, and looking forward to talking with more members of the community. At the end of the day, though, all of it comes back to Lexi.


“I think she’s proud of me,” she says. “Lexi is a leader. She is a confident, beautiful little girl. I know she would have made a difference in this world. And it’s unfortunate that she’ll never be able to do that for herself. But it is my hope that she will lead me in that direction.”

Cat Cardenas is a Latina writer and photographer based in Austin. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ and other publications.