In Uvalde’s first mayoral race since the Robb Elementary School shooting, former mayor Cody Smith won back the job Tuesday over Kimberly Mata-Rubio, a mother who has led calls for tougher gun laws since her daughter was among the 19 children killed in the 2022 attack.
The race tested the mood of the South Texas town more than a year after one of America’s deadliest mass shootings and a botched police response that remains under criminal investigation. Two teachers were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by a teenage gunman with an AR-style rifle.
Mata-Rubio, who pressed Uvalde leaders for answers and transparency after the shooting, campaigned on unifying the small town that is still riven with division. Her candidacy put on the ballot one of Uvalde’s most outspoken figures and an aggressive proponent of stricter gun laws.
“I’ll never stop fighting for you, Lexi,” Mata-Rubio posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “I meant it when I said this was only the beginning. After all, I’m not a regular mom. I’m Lexi’s mom.”
Voters instead elected Smith, who served two terms as Uvalde mayor more than a decade ago. Smith, an executive at a local bank, last served as Uvalde mayor in 2012. His campaign’s Facebook page called for bringing the community together but made no explicit mention of the shooting.
“All of us wanted the same thing — we want this community to heal,” Smith told reporters Tuesday, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Smith said that seeking office again felt like something he needed to do to help the town. He said he plans to seek input from victims’ family members, Uvalde school officials and city leaders on memorializing the 21 lives lost.
Mata-Rubio, 34, has testified before Congress in support of new gun restrictions and has decried the hesitant police response at the school. She helped launch a nonprofit called “Lives Robbed” that pushes for stricter gun laws.
She previously worked as a reporter for the Uvalde News-Leader, the local newspaper. Her campaign signs were a bright shade of yellow, her 10-year-old daughter Lexi’s favorite color.
The campaigns reflected divisions in Uvalde between residents who say they want to move past the tragedy and others who are still demanding answers and accountability. A criminal investigation is still ongoing over the slow police response at Robb Elementary, where hundreds of officers rushed to the school on May 24, 2022, but waited for more than hour before confronting the gunman.
Smith will replace Mayor Don McLaughlin, who accused state police of a coverup and deflecting blame for not confronting the gunman sooner, and is stepping down to run as Republican for a seat in the Texas Legislature.
The elementary school campus is now permanently closed. Last month, the city broke ground on a new school in Uvalde.