Like many American families, my family started out in a small town and through hard work and sacrifice we fought our way into the middle class.
My roots in Alpine, Texas, the town where I was born and raised, go back to the early 1880’s. In 1917, my grandparents opened a small family restaurant. That restaurant – which was around until my parents retired in 1997 – taught me many lessons. One of the most important lessons was the value of hard work.
My dad was a proud WWII veteran who refused any veterans benefits because he believed his military service was just a matter of meeting his obligation to his country. He worked in his restaurant every day. My mom took a job as a state employee and did everything she could to support three kids and help make ends meet. My sisters and I were expected to do well in school and to pitch in at the family restaurant. I mostly washed dishes at first. Later, I added on a job at a local clothing store, the local radio station and a job at Sul Ross State University, the university in Alpine. I graduated from high school in 1980 and graduated from Sul Ross in 1982. Finishing college in two years while balancing three jobs wasn’t easy by any means, but like I said – we were raised to be hard workers. After graduation, I went on to earn a degree from The University of Texas School of Law. It was a great education from nationally renowned law professors like Dean Paige Keeton.
After graduating from law school I served as an assistant attorney general before heading back to Alpine to serve as a local felony prosecutor. It was a great job, but I was frustrated to learn that the Texas prison system was too often a revolving door – prisoners sometimes serving only one month for each year of their sentence. I got a call from the Upton County sheriff one day. He had driven to Huntsville to drop off a prisoner and stopped several places on his drive back home. Imagine his surprise when he got back to Rankin and found the prisoner he’d delivered had already been released and had beaten him back. That was the last straw. My parents saw firsthand how frustrated I was with the system as it existed and convinced me to pursue change by running for the state legislature. And so I did – I was 28 years old when I was elected to the Texas House to represent my West Texas neighbors and friends.
Today, I am a father, husband, son and brother. Family has made me the man I am – and it’s still the most important thing in my life. Two weeks after my first primary win in 1990, I married the most beautiful and wonderful woman I’d ever met, María Elena. We have now been married for 24 years. It’s gone by in a flash. We’re also the proud parents of a ten-year old son Nicolás. These ten years have gone by especially fast. It’s amazing how fast a kid grows. Nicolás is hilarious and fun. Though he’s only ten, he thinks he’s already twenty-five.
In the state legislature I was able to get a lot done by sticking to two simple guidelines – (1) always put the needs of the people you represent ahead of any political concerns (or, as Speaker Pete Laney used to say “Vote your district”) and (2) always be willing to work with anyone to solve a problem, regardless of party affiliation. I used my experience as a prosecutor to write laws to make them tougher on criminals, including passing Texas’ “Life Without Parole” law and creating the state’s DNA database which helps make sure the guilty are convicted and the innocent are set free. I also concentrated on helping victims of crime – including victims of domestic violence. I proposed legislation to cut taxes for many small businesses in Texas and fought for the natural gas tax exemption, an industry that provides jobs to many families in the district.
Legislating for good was my passion. I worked to increase investments in public education and public universities, took on insurance companies on behalf of disabled children and helped build roads, schools and other buildings across southwest Texas. And, I helped neighborhoods get their first-ever access to water. As a son of the border region, I knew even in the Legislature that our border was the front door to Texas. So, I worked on strengthening trade, securing our border, and investing in infrastructure. I also helped bring about several reforms in our criminal justice system and provided support for Texas veterans.
My days in the Legislature were rewarding. I was deeply honored to receive many accolades and awards like being named to Texas Monthly’s list of Ten Best Legislators or having an elementary school in Eagle Pass named Pete Gallego Elementary. I loved having the trust and confidence of the people I worked for. At the same time, I was honored to also have the trust and confidence of my peers – both Republicans and Democrats. My job in the Legislature was to lead people to common ground – to bring people together to reach a good result. However, as I looked at how Congress operated and tried to talk to my own congressman, I found myself once more feeling the same frustration that bothered me as a young prosecutor.
I was able to make a difference in Austin. And, it didn’t make sense that in D.C., the US Congress could never reach a good result – or any result at all. We definitely do things better in Texas. I thought for sure Congress needed a dose of small town values and common sense – and I knew I could do a better job than some of the people in Washington. María Elena listened to my frustrations and told me I should just go do it. And so I did.
In 2012, I made my first run for Congress – It took a lot of help from a lot of people, but by doing what I always did – working hard and working together – we won! For someone used to getting things done, Congress was a big change, but I refused to give up the work ethic and morals that got me there. In fact, when the government shut down, I immediately sponsored a bill prohibiting Congress from accepting a paycheck because, like you, I don’t think anyone deserves to get paid when they’re not doing their job. With regards to the people who’ve been in Congress for awhile, that didn’t make me any new friends.
While in Congress, I tried to focus on helping our men and women in uniform and our veterans, as well as our seniors and our kids. I lost my dad several years ago and that experience taught me a lot. Our country has made commitments to those, like my dad, who have formed and forged our country. We must keep those commitments to our veterans and our elderly. At the same time, we must be sure we pass on to our kids a strong nation full of the same dreams and opportunities our parents provided us.
I’m running for Congress again because there is still so much work to do. It’s a rough world out there and the dysfunction in D.C. is worse than ever. And, unless we learn to work together as Americans again, our children will face even bigger challenges. Be that as it may, I’m determined as ever to be successful in duplicating what I did in Texas – to bring people together to reach a good result.
Ours is a resilient country and with your help, I know we can put our country back on the right track.
Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, New Jersey's 5th Congressional District
"The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United had a negative impact on our political system. In a democracy, it is critical for all of our citizens to be heard and the Supreme Court's decision undermines that notion. All voices must be recognized, regardless of party, and our officeholders need to remain accountable to the voting public. I have a deep belief in transparency, and, if elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure every Americans' right to an open and fair process." - Josh Gottheimer