In July, the City Council in Uvalde, Texas, approved a mayoral special election because Mayor Don McLaughlin announced his candidacy for the Texas House of Representatives, leaving the seat vacant.
McLaughlin has served as the city's mayor since 2014, winning re-election three times, and led the community following the May 2022 school shooting at Robb Elementary School that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
Now, the special election on Nov. 7 will fill the remaining one-year term left by McLaughlin.
The candidates for mayor are Cody Smith, a senior vice president at First State Bank of Uvalde and former mayor; Veronica Martinez, an art teacher at Dalton Elementary School; and Kimberly Mata-Rubio, the mother of Alexandria "Lexi" Rubio, a victim of last year's tragic mass shooting.
While Smith has over 35 years of experience in investments and banking, according to Uvalde Leader-News, he spent 17 years on the Uvalde City Council — 13 as a councilman and four as mayor. He began his councilman role in 1994 and served as mayor after being elected in 2008 and 2010.
“I was born and raised in Uvalde and have served this community in the past,” Smith told Uvalde Leader-News. “I want to see Uvalde continue to grow and prosper.”
In last year's election, politicians advocating for gun control lost support, which the Robb Elementary School shooting victims' families said was disheartening. With the mayoral race now exclusive to Uvalde residents, all attention is on Mata-Rubio, who lost her 10-year-old daughter in the shooting.
"I grieve for the woman you would have become and all the difference you would have made in this world," Mata-Rubio tweeted with a photo of her announcement to run for office. "I grieve for the woman I was when you were still here. But, one part of me still exist, I am still your mom. I will honor your life with action. This is only the beginning."
Although it's her first time running for elected office, she has prior civic involvement as a member of the Uvalde Area Chamber of Commerce board. However, as mayor, her influence on city gun laws is limited by state law, which prevents local ordinances from overriding state regulations.
Martinez, who shares a similar agenda with Mata-Rubio, joined the race with the goal of helping the community in its healing and progress.
“I am running because I have questions about the local government. Uvalde needs a voice,” Martinez told the Uvalde Hesperian. “Ongoing mental health issues caused by the school shooting are a community wide concern. The need for better support for educators, students and parents – educator staff retention and salaries, addressing teacher fatigue. Protecting the community from media, self-interested outsiders, additional threats.”
Martinez previously served as a village mayor on a military base in Colorado, according to the Uvalde Leader-News.
If either Mata-Rubio or Martinez were to win the election, they would make history as the first female mayor in the town's history.
It's worth mentioning that no matter who wins Tuesday, the mayoral position will be up for election again in 2024.
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