The conflict in Iraq is all but over. The vast majority of troops are home, and the fighting has died down considerably. However, one man continues to battle, inspired by the war to make changes here at home.
Ruben Gallego has led an interesting life. From Harvard to the Marine Corps to the government, not many people have had the opportunities or tests of character and success that this state representative has had.
Born to parents from Mexico and Columbia, Gallego grew up mostly in Chicago, but spent some time overseas, coming back for good at the age of 6 or 7. He attended Harvard, but was called away when his Marine reserve unit was activated. He served with Lima 3/25, a unit famous for bearing the brunt of the action in the war in Iraq and in World War II.
Gallego says his time in the Middle East motivated him to political activism upon his
“My unit barely had any armor ... a lot of men died,” said Gallego.
This hardship inspired him to make a difference. He finished his degree from Harvard, government with a concentration in international relations, and moved to Arizona to join his then girlfriend, now wife and Phoenix City Council member, Kate.
“When I left the military I didn’t have a job,” Gallego said, adding that the poor state of veteran’s services was another motivating factor for him.
Since then, Gallego has climbed the rungs of the Democratic party in Arizona, serving for a time as the vice chair and winning consecutive bids to represent two different districts in the Arizona House of Representatives. Currently, he represents District 16.
Gallego recently announced his intention to run for Congress, filling the seat of U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor. Kate Gallego spoke about it, saying they have high hopes for the bid.
“It’s wonderful that we both do it because it’s such a crazy schedule and lifestyle,” she said when asked about how the two would handle one’s transition to Washington. “I would see him on weekends but would definitely miss him during the week.”
That’s because Kate Gallego is busy in Phoenix, championing for the people, jobs, transit and veterans services. She commented on how she and her husband are able to work on this together.
“On our daily commute we always get stuck at the same traffic light,” said Kate Gallego as she explained how the couple found out that lights nearest the highways in the Valley are maintained by the state, which does not coordinate timing with the cities. This is one small example of problems the two are working together to fix.
Ruben Gallego caused quite a stir when he advocated for increased transparency, which upset colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He said he didn’t understand why his fellow public servants would not want more transparency in their campaigns and businesses.
“When you go as a young man and you go through the war you learn you have to be honest with yourself,” said Gallego, commenting on how he balances some of his more moderate views, such as limited gun control, with more liberal views on issues like marijuana legalization. “For me, it’s been easier to understand who I am and what I believe.”
Gallego spoke in a forum at Arizona State University last year where he outlined his ideas on gun control, more moderate than, say, Diane Feinstein, calling for independent databases for public use when selling firearms privately. He also underlined the need for increased and improved mental health care.
“There is a way to assure Second Amendment rights while having sane gun laws. I own several weapons myself,” he said.
Gallego is working toward the legalization of recreational marijuana. He describes his bill as “for adult use,” suggesting sales be limited to adults over 21. He also proposes to monitor the production and distribution system closely.
• Trevor Godfrey is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.