As Pete Gallego campaigns to take back his seat in Texas' 23rd congressional district, the Alpine Democrat says he is discovering a unique kind of voter.
"There are significant numbers, I think, of Trump voters who are Trump-Gallego voters," Gallego said Thursday, referring to the Republican presidential nominee who looms large over Gallego's rematch against U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio.
In a wide-ranging interview about the race — the only competitive congressional contest this November in Texas — Gallego said he has been running into people whom he thinks will split their ticket, voting for Trump over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton but Gallego over Hurd. The reason, he added, is that the same voters drawn to Trump's anti-establishment zeal are also looking for a member of Congress to keep in check the unpredictable billionaire if he makes it to the White House.
"There are a lot of people that I've met that the only reason they'll vote for him is because they desperately want something new and different, because they're tired of what they call the status quo or the old guard or the way it is, and so they're willing to risk it," Gallego said. "But interestingly enough, a lot of those Trump people, they also want Trump to have a backstop. They want a safety net."
"And so they want to vote for me on the Democratic side, because they hear what I say about him, and they want me to be the backstop," Gallego added. "They want me to be their safety net."
Pressed further about the prevalence of such voters, Gallego said they are “all over West Texas."
To be clear, Gallego is firmly opposed to Trump and said he will vote for Clinton in November. Hurd, meanwhile, is not currently supporting his party's nominee but leaving open the possibility he could ultimately vote for Trump.
Earning crossover support could be key to victory in the 23rd district, a perennial swing district where Hurd beat Gallego by two percentage points in 2014. This time around, Democrats are hoping that higher turnout in a presidential election year — and deep opposition to Trump — will lift Gallego to a win.
But on Thursday, Gallego suggested he sees a path to victory that could include garnering support from both anti-Trump and pro-Trump voters.
"In a 50-50 district, I think the person who gets the crossover wins," Gallego said. "I have yet to meet my first Hillary-Hurd voter. I don't know. What would that person look like? What would that person think like?"