Gallego gets high marks for speech, convention leadership from delegates

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, won high marks from Arizona delegates to the Democratic National Convention for his Wednesday speech as well as his leadership of the delegation. (Photo by Veronica Acosta/Cronkite News)

PHILADELPHIA – For a sense of how effective Rep. Ruben Gallego was in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, look no further than Arizona delegate Michael Gordy.

Gordy, a staunch supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Gallego’s speech opened his eyes to reasons to get behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton now that Sanders is out of the race.

“Everyone who was on that stage last night told us things we were not totally aware of,” Gordy said.

A ‘bright future’

Gallego was one of two Arizonans who addressed the convention Wednesday night, along with former Rep. Gabby Giffords. But it’s not just his speech that’s been garnering attention for Gallego, who got high marks from convention-goers for his leadership of the state’s delegation.

“He’s a veteran, he’s a very hard-charging congressman and I think he has a bright future,” said former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. “And as the chairman of the delegation he’s really showing his mettle.”

Former Rep. Ron Barber, a member of Arizona’s Democratic delegation, also sung Gallego’s praises, saying he expects to see Gallego’s role grow in the future.

“I think that leadership in the House … is seeing he is able to do a lot and they’re giving him increasing visibility and responsibilities because he’s such a good advocate for the issues that are important to all of us,” Barber said.

Gallego said that while he was honored and excited to be speaking in the 7:15 p.m. slot on the second-to-last night of the convention, he understood the importance of his role as a speaker.

“I feel great that they gave me this honor,” Gallego said. “I also felt that I had to make sure to take it seriously. Donald Trump really is a serious threat to the United States. He is not fit to be president.”

Taking on Trump

While Gallego, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, dedicated most of his speech to veterans’ issues, he finished up with a strong endorsement of Clinton. He said that as president, she would respect troops and make “thoughtful decisions” about sending the military into combat.

“She fought for the post-9/11 GI Bill while in the Senate to send our veterans to college,” Gallego said in his speech. “She extended health insurance to America’s reservists. She has a real plan to combat veterans’ homelessness.”

But Gallego dedicated much of his speech to slamming Trump for his campaign comments about Latinos, Muslims and veterans – saying he is likely to create more war and more veterans if elected.

“The point is that Donald Trump just uses veterans to help himself politically,” Gallego said. “He doesn’t really care about us, it’s just a political tool that he uses.”

He also criticized Trump for his comments last year about Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona. Trump belittled the war hero description of McCain, a Vietnam veteran who spent years as a prisoner of war, telling a campaign audience, “I like people who weren’t captured.”

“As a Marine, as an Arizonan, as an American: I’m offended,” Gallego said, where he highlighted veterans’ issues in his speech Wednesday.

Taking on the Arizona GOP

At the same time, Gallego criticized Arizona Republicans – including McCain – for not repudiating Trump, who was named the party’s presidential nominee last week.

“Any Arizona Republican should not be supporting a person like Donald Trump,” he said. “John McCain, all the members of Congress, (Tucson Republican Rep.) Martha McSally, this is ridiculous. This man is not fit to be in office.”

McCain’s office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. But McSally’s office said in a statement that the first-term congresswoman has not endorsed Trump and has no plans to, noting that she has criticized his statements on veterans, women and Latinos, among others.

Many Arizona delegates said they were impressed with Gallego’s speech – as well as those by Giffords and President Barack Obama, the keynote speaker Wednesday.

“His speech, all of the speeches, have been great,” said delegate Lorraine Rychil. “I’ve been very impressed with all of them.”

Gordy said that he thinks Gallego and his wife, Kate, a Phoenix City Council member, are both Arizona politicians to keep an eye on in the next few years.

“That’s a family that’s going to make a huge difference in Arizona over the next several decades,” Gordy said. “He’s going to end up being someone who can truly reach across the aisle.”