It's rare these days for Democrats to pick up a seat in a red state like Texas from a tea party-backed incumbent, but Pete Gallego unseated GOP Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco in a race in which both parties and outside groups poured in millions of dollars. Gallego, a veteran state representative, depicted his rival as an "extremist" who would destroy the social safety net.
Gallego was born and raised in Alpine, Texas, where he still resides. His grandfather worked as a ranch hand and his grandmother ran a family restaurant in the town of 6,000; Gallego's first job was as a dishwasher at the restaurant. His father was the first Hispanic elected to the school board, and when the bank in Alpine wouldn't lend money to Latinos, Gallego's parents started a credit union on their dining room table. Gallego graduated from Sul Ross State University in two years while balancing three jobs. "I saw how hard my parents worked and I didn't want to be a freeloader," he said in an interview.
After graduating from law school, Gallego took a job as an assistant in the Attorney General's Office, where he met his future wife, Maria Elena Ramon. He ran for state representative in 1990, the year that Democrat Ann Richards waged her successful campaign for Texas governor, and he became the first Latino to represent the district.