Gallego invokes segregation of the past in denouncement of Trump
Pete Gallego, seeking to reclaim his seat in Congress, drew on his parent’s struggles against segregation and racism in a Saturday speech to the state Democratic convention in San Antonio, denouncing Donald Trump’s rhetoric on minorities and Mexican-Americans.
Gallego is running in a congressional rematch against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, who defeated Gallego, D-Alpine, by a margin of just 2,422 votes in a rough-and-tumble 2014 election for the 23rdcongressional district seat.
In remarks to the convention, Gallego drew connections between the segregation his parents experienced in the past and Trump’s recent comments about a Mexican-American federal judge, immigrants from Mexico and other ethnic and religious minority groups.
“The Republican candidate for the highest office in the land - he’s a bigot,” Gallego said. “Some Republicans - my opponent comes to mind - are afraid to call him out.”
Justin Hollis, the Hurd campaign manager, said in a statement: “Pete Gallego remains the former do nothing congressman who never passed a bill. He refuses to stand up for our active military, our veterans and our gun owners. A vote for him is another vote for four more years of Obama.”
Political analysts, including the non-partisan Rothenberg Gonzalez political report, see the Gallego-Hurd race as the only real toss-up race in Texas, and one of only a dozen competitive House races nationwide. And some think sharing a ticket with Trump could hurt Hurd in the heavily Hispanic 23rd district, which stretches from San Antonio along the U.S.-Mexico border west to El Paso.
“It’s kind of amazing in a state, the second biggest state — with 36 House districts, that only one of those races is truly competitive,” said Kyle Kondik with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
“I think that if it’s the case that Hillary Clinton is doing well in the national polls, that could give Gallego a good chance to win in the district, particularly because it’s a district with a very big Hispanic population and Trump’s favorability with Hispanics is notoriously very poor. If this race goes south for Republicans, Hurd will find himself in a bit of trouble,” Kondik said.
He speculated that the higher the turnout, the better Gallego’s chances, but added, “this is a low-turnout district.”
In 2014, the race was flooded with more than $5.5 million in outside spending. Kondik said spending this year might be comparable. “It’s hard to make a confident prediction, but I would certainly think outside spending would be comparable or not more. Both parties are super focused on this district.”
Gallego attacked the future that Trump promised, but he also shared stories from the past, recalling looking through a window on the Anglo-side of then-segregated Alpine as a child “and knowing a view through the window is all I could ever get.”
Gallego’s father, also named Pete Gallego, championed integration in Alpine school districts and became the first Mexican-American to serve on the Alpine ISD school board. He died in 2010.
As a congressman, Gallego said he would fight as an elected leader against bigotry for his son, Nicolas, and future generations.
“The Texas that Nicolás knows is a better Texas than the one I grew up in and the one my parents and grandparents knew,” he said.
“No one will steal my son’s American Dream,” Gallego said.