Latina Gun Safety Advocate Defeated in Uvalde, TX as Abortion Rights Prevail in 2023 Elections

Uvalde mayoral candidate headshot, a campaign sign that says Vote Yes on Issue 1 and the outline of the state of virginia

U.S. general elections happen every single year in November. The reality of election turnout in the U.S. means that during non-presidential election years, many voters decide not to vote, leaving the outcome of pivotal races to be decided by a small percentage of people.

This means that high-profile issues of consequence also don’t get the attention of the everyday person as much as they do when media coverage and ad spending as in a frenzy, resulting in elections making their way into everyday conversation.

Despite the lower profile nature of the 2023 non-presidential election, feminist issues made their way to ballots nationwide represented by candidates who made abortion, reproductive health, and gun safety central to their campaigns.

In South Texas, Gun Safety Doesn’t Rally the Vote

The most high profile of the gun advocates on the ballot was Kimberly Mata-Rubio, mother of slain elementary student Lexi Rubio who died during the 212th mass shooting of 2022 that left 19 kids and 2 teachers dead in Uvadle, Texas.

In Uvalde’s first mayoral race since the Robb Elementary School shooting, Mata-Rubio came up short, losing to the former Uvalde mayor, Cody Smith. More than a year after yet another young white male with an AR-style rifle changed the Uvalde community forever, Mata-Rubio campaigned on unifying the small town. Her candidacy made her one of Uvalde’s most outspoken voices advocating for stricter gun laws.

After poll results were released, Mata-Rubio said via X, “I’ll never stop fighting for you, Lexi. I meant it when I said this was only the beginning. After all, I’m not a regular mom. I’m Lexi’s mom.”

Smith previously served two terms as Uvalde mayor when he was first elected in 2008. Smith took the opposite approach on the issue and campaigned on bringing the community together and made no express mention of the shooting in any campaign materials.

“All of us wanted the same thing — we want this community to heal,” Smith told reporters after votes were tallied, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The general sentiment from the community revealed that there is a deep divide in Uvalde between residents who say they want to move past the tragedy and those who are still demanding answers and accountability.

Abortion Continues to Rally Voters Across America

More than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion advocates continued their winning streak in states where abortion was a central campaign issue.

In Virginia, abortion wasn't directly on the ballot but it was an important issue that Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin explicitly advocated against. The Governor supports a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks, with some exceptions, and aggressively campaigned with Republicans to try to win control of both houses of the Virginia legislature.

Democrats rallied and successfully took control of the state House of Delegates while maintaining control of the state Senate. Abortion rights supporters campaigned heavily so that Democrats could then block Youngkin from working to pass abortion bans and repeal gun safety laws.

In Ohio, abortion is now a constitutional right. The Issue 1 ballot measure amends the state constitution guaranteeing every person in Ohio the right “to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion.” It also prevents the state from “burdening, penalizing or prohibiting” those rights — though it specifies that abortion will remain prohibited after the point a doctor judges a fetus would most likely survive birth, with exceptions to protect the woman’s life or health.

The success of the Ohio ballot measure is yet another victory for abortion-rights advocates. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ballot measures backing abortion rights have won in every election so far, even in conservative states, including Kentucky and Kansas.

In another sign that Kentucky voters are in support of the right to abortion and bodily autonomy, Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, won reelection after facing off against the state's Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, who opposes abortion rights and has defended Kentucky’s current strict abortion laws in court.

Beshear's campaign released a powerful political ad that featured a young woman who talked about her experience as a victim of rape by her stepfather at the age 12 and who later miscarried. She highlighted that Kentucky's current abortion law contains no rape or incest exceptions, saying, "Anyone who believes there should be no exceptions for rape and incest could never understand what it's like to stand in my shoes."

In Pennsylvania, Dan McCaffery won an open seat on the state Supreme Court after positioning himself as a defender of abortion rights. Court seats are non-partisan; however, as judges are increasingly more willing to interpret laws through their political views, instead of as non-biased arbiters of the law, partisanship and positions on issues are becoming more common. McCaffery, who is a former Philadelphia judge and prosecutor, campaigned as a defender of abortion rights and other rights that he said Democrats had fought for but were under attack by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority.