4 fun facts about Democratic Senate candidate Ruben Gallego

ruben gallego

LEFT PHOTO: Then-State Rep. Ruben Gallego (left) in 2014 with his campaign field director, Tony Valdovinos. RIGHT PHOTO: The Off-Broadway musical ¡Americano! tells the story of Valdovinos’s (left) life and political work with Gallego (right). Images via (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call and New World Stages.

By Camaron Stevenson

March 13, 2024

As political ads begin to take over Arizona’s airwaves, the way candidates want the world to see them will interrupt every show, song, and stream that isn’t commercial-free.

Democratic US Rep. Ruben Gallego launched his first television ad Tuesday after his US Senate campaign, only days after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced she wouldn’t seek reelection.

The ad details Gallego’s military service, his love of family, and offers a brief insight into his voting record while in Congress—and will likely be staples of the majority of his campaign ads this year.

And, while his resume and voting record could help voters decide if he’s right to represent them in the Senate, what’s left out of those ads can be instructive, too.

Here are four fun facts about Gallego you won’t see on TV.

1. He’s featured in an Off-Broadway musical

When Gallego first ran for US Congress in 2014, he hired a DACA recipient named Tony Valdovinos to be his campaign’s field director, a prominent position that involves managing staff and volunteers as well as strategizing voter outreach. He met Valdovinos through activism work, where they successfully recalled the state legislator who authored Arizona’s 2010 “Show Me Your Papers” law.

Valdovinos had a unique background: he was brought to the US as a child, and only discovered he wasn’t a US citizen when he tried to enlist with the Marines. That realization sparked his work as an activist—and in 2019, sparked the inspiration for ¡Americano!, a musical about his life.

The musical debuted at the Phoenix Theatre Company on Jan. 29, 2020, and was later performed at the Off-Broadway theatre New World Stages in 2022. Featured in the final acts was a character modeled off Gallego, a state representative named Carlos Ledesma who was running for US Congress. In a powerful monologue, he inspired a distraught Valdovinos to take control of his future and not give up on his dreams.

2. He served in the Arizona Legislature with Kyrsten Sinema

US Congress is not the first time Gallego and Sinema have worked as legislators together in opposite chambers. Gallego’s first term in the Arizona House of Representatives was Sinema’s last one in the Arizona Senate.

They served at the Arizona Capitol together from 2010 through 2012, when Sinema left to run for the US House of Representatives. Two years later, Gallego followed—and now, nearly a decade after, he hopes to take her seat in the US Senate.

3. He coach-surfed when he first got to Congress

While Gallego landed in some hot water in 2023 for claiming his Washington, DC, home as his primary residence, his living situation at the US Capitol wasn’t always so stable.

When Gallego first got to Congress in 2014, rent in DC was $1,900 a month—slightly over budget for a former state legislator. He was resigned to working out of a Dunkin Donuts by day, and sleeping on an air mattress at a friend’s house by night until his new paycheck kicked in.

4. His off-the-cuff remarks aren’t as polished

During his new ad, Gallego is measured, calm, and somber as he talks about his plans for the US Senate. But his reputation while in the House is known for being a little more rough around the edges. His floor speech after the Jan. 6 Insurrection was full of raw passion, only hours after he had helped his colleagues put on gas masks and watched insurrectionists storm the Capitol building.

“Today there was treason in this house. Today there were traitors in this house,” Gallego said to his Republican colleagues. “It is time for you to save your soul. It is time for you to save this country. That man [Trump] at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will forget you, he will use you, and he will dump you to the side.”

Outside the Capitol, Gallego’s tweets criticizing other lawmakers are raw, authentic, and often brutal.

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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