On Wednesday, the Washington Free Beacon filed a motion seeking to unseal Arizona Senate candidate Ruben Gallego’s divorce records.
Gallego, a Democratic congressman who is running to unseat the left-leaning independent senator Kyrsten Sinema, was married to another Arizona politician, Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego, until 2017.
Their divorce took place when Kate Gallego was 9 months pregnant. Though both Ruben and Kate Gallego are public figures, public records and basic information on the internet about the circumstances of the divorce are scant, likely because the Gallegos or their allies have buried them.
In Arizona, as in most states, court records—including those related to divorces—are generally accessible to the public. But in the Gallegos’ case, the entire docket is under seal, something incredibly unusual in a state where the sealing of information, if it happens at all, is typically limited to specific sensitive information, like the identifying information of minor children.
At the same time, Gallego himself made the dissolution of his marriage an integral part of his political story. In a long interview with the Washington Post last March, Gallego attributed his divorce to post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered after serving in Iraq, telling the paper he drank too much, smoked too much, and became prone to "extreme outbursts." (Gallego was a congressman at the time.)
"The pressure of being a congressman and of being an expectant father, on top of the anxiety, moodiness, survivor’s guilt and the constant striving for success was too much for Gallego to handle," the paper wrote.
The aspiring senator wants to have it both ways, yakking about his divorce in the media and on the campaign trail while keeping any materials that would allow the public to fact check him under lockdown.
Beyond that, it is in the public’s interest to know their lawmakers. What was the nature of these "extreme outbursts"? Did they result in physical threats or violence? What were the circumstances surrounding a divorce that Gallego himself said "outsiders think" came at "the worst possible time"? Surely, he has to admit the timing could have been better. Nonetheless, he wrote in his 2021 book, he and his ex-wife continue to "share in each other’s lives, and we certainly support each other’s careers."
That brings us to Kate Gallego’s less-than-full-throated endorsement of her ex-husband last year in a terse, one-sentence statement. The former Phoenix city council member, now Phoenix mayor, surely has an interest in seeing her child’s father become a U.S. senator, and women have complicated reasons for making the decisions they do in these sorts of cases. In this one, however, the public has a vested interest as well.
This all takes place against the backdrop of the Democratic Party’s successful effort to release women who voluntarily entered into non-disclosure agreements relating to sexual harassment they had suffered in the workplace, in many cases in exchange for loads of money. President Joe Biden signed the Speak Out Act, which prevents the enforcement of non-disclosure agreements relating to sexual harassment or sexual assault, in 2022, and Gallego voted in favor of that bill.
The Gallegos’ divorce records appear to be a non-disclosure agreement of another kind, in which both parties prefer to keep the truth about it out of public view. In this case, as Democrats have argued with the Speak Out Act, there is a third party with a need to know.
That is why the Free Beacon filed a public access request in Yavapai County Superior Court seeking these documents. That request was denied, and the county clerk indicated we would reach a resolution only by filing a motion to unseal the case docket.
The people of Arizona deserve to know the man who is getting down on one knee before they accept his proposal.