At 25, Pete Salas is a soft-spoken and extremely intelligent young man on a quest to represent his community in the statehouse. Texas District 126 covers much of the unincorporated area north of Houston, including parts of Cy-Fair and Spring. The rural district is currently served by Sam Harless, a white Republican whose wife previously represented the district for ten years. Salas is Latino, a Libertarian, and an intersex-bodied trans male. He is the first intersex candidate on record to run for a Texas House seat.
“I haven’t faced any backlash yet,” Salas says. “Once people talk to me and hear my ideas, they look past what I am.”
A native Houstonian whose parents hail from Mexico, Salas graduated from Klein Forest High School and has studied natural science and petroleum field service. He currently works as a freelance graphic designer. Earlier this year, a serious car accident on Highway 249 left him with head and neck injuries that he is still recovering from. That highway is notorious for fatal accidents, and making rural roads safer for drivers and cyclists is one of the issues he talks about.
Some of his other ideas may surprise you. Salas is for property-tax reform, Second Amendment gun rights, decriminalizing cannabis and sex work, and moving the nation away from its dependence on fossil fuels.
“I’ve always been very vocal and outspoken,” he says. “I was interested in civil rights and politics from an early age. [After studying] all the parties, two years ago I joined the Libertarian Party. I like the platform—nonaggression, being autonomous, and having more freedom.” Salas says the Liberterian Party of Texas—one of the 13 founding parties in 1971—has been supportive of his campaign, but with the election still more than a year away, it’s still very much a nascent campaign with no staff, a few family and friends volunteering, and little funding. Mostly it exists online, with an active website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, and as much public speaking as he can arrange.
“It will definitely be a grassroots campaign,” he says, “I think it’s important to get out and talk to constituents and listen to them. They may actually have a solution to a problem you haven’t thought of.
“I live in the southern part of our district; we don’t get a lot of attention. We don’t have public services; we have to contract for trash pickup. We have a lot of empty commercial buildings in the area, and flooding and drainage problems. We need to slow down deforestation and overdevelopment.”
Family is very important to Salas, who lives near his parents, sisters, and his grandmother, who often cooks his favorite traditional dishes of Puebla. And it’s clear that his favorite hobby is reading. The 25-year-old is amazingly well-versed in history, which is apparent when he talks about immigration.
“We have a militarized ICE and Border Patrol that terrorizes people who are mainly here because [the U.S. has] destabilized their countries,” he says. He then launches into the history of the Reagan Doctrine in South America that led to the massacre of indigenous people in Guatemala. He is very knowledgeable about immigration policy and civil rights in part because of his experience with being racially profiled.
As someone who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you might think Salas would be primarily focused on promoting queer issues, but that’s not his priority. He knows his district and what the residents need, and those are his key campaign issues.
“Today, we are seeing the ineptitude of both our government and private institutions,” he states on his campaign website. “It’s time to change this, and the only way to do it is by bringing together our community and become family. This campaign is to shift the power back to the people—to listen to their ideas, experiences, and opinions. The time is now.”