Kimberly Mata-Rubio, whose daugher died in the Uvalde school shooting of May 2022, is running for office to make a difference on gun control. (Credit: Kimberly Mata-Rubio)

When Kimberly Mata-Rubio’s daughter died, she was galvanized into action to combat gun violence. Now, she’s turning that drive into a run for elected office.

Mata-Rubio is running to be mayor of the 15,000-person town of Uvalde, Texas – the location of the Robb Elementary School shooting last May that took the lives of 19 students and two teachers. One of those children was her 10-year-old daughter, Lexi.

In the aftermath, Mata-Rubio channeled her grief into the creation and growth of Lives Robbed, a nonprofit that advocates for more stringent gun control legislation. But now, in a bid to unify what she says is a fractured community, she’s tossing her hat into the mayoral ring.

“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 explained to 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.”

The current mayor, Don McLaughlin, is stepping down to run for a spot in the Texas House of Representatives. A special election to choose his successor will take place on Nov. 7. In this race, Mata-Rubio will go up against former Uvalde city council member and mayor Cody Smith, who is now senior vice president of a local bank.

Mata-Rubio, who presently works as an advertising executive at the Uvalde Leader-News, told NPR that she had always been interested in being a part of local government, but was reluctant to jump into the political fray. But thanks to some encouragement from her husband, Felix Rubio, she decided to become “the change I seek,” she says.

What she wants to avoid most is the needless suffering of other parents and families – including her other five children. She told the Uvalde Leader-News that complacency among current leadership paved the way to last May’s massacre, and that she wants to use her recent experience crafting and advocating for gun-control policies to guide Uvalde forward.

There are other issues she wants to tackle, too, including improving communication between the city and the school district, preserving Uvalde’s rich history and culture, and aiding local businesses.

Mata-Rubio considers the run for office a tribute to her daughter. “I grieve for the woman you would have become and all the difference you would have made in this world,” Mata-Rubio tweeted about her run. “I grieve for the woman I was when you were still here.”

“But, one part of me still exists: I am still your mom,” she added in the post. “I will honor your life with action.”