For­mer Obama hous­ing chief Ju­lian Cas­tro joins 2020 cam­paign

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Paul J. We­ber

SAN AN­TO­NIO >> As­sail­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for “a cri­sis of lead­er­ship,” for­mer Obama Cab­i­net mem­ber Ju­lian Cas­tro joined the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race Satur­day as the rush of Democrats mak­ing early moves to chal­lenge the in­cum­bent ac­cel­er­ates.

Cas­tro, who could end up be­ing the only Latino in what is shap­ing up to be a crowded Demo­cratic field, made im­mi­gra­tion a cen­ter­piece of his an­nounce­ment in his home­town of San An­to­nio, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

Two days after the pres­i­dent vis­ited the bor­der to pro­mote his promised wall, Cas­tro mocked Trump for claim­ing that the U.S. faces an “in­va­sion” from its ally to the south. “He called it a na­tional se­cu­rity cri­sis,” Cas­tro said. “Well, there is a cri­sis to­day. It’s a cri­sis of lead­er­ship. Don­ald Trump has failed to up­hold the val­ues of our great na­tion.”

Cas­tro, the 44-year-old grand­son of a Mex­i­can im­mi­grant, said he was run­ning for pres­i­dent “be­cause it’s time for new lead­er­ship, be­cause it’s time for new en­ergy and it’s time for a new com­mit­ment to make sure that the op­por­tu­ni­ties that I’ve had are avail­able to ev­ery Amer­i­can.”

He made the an­nounce­ment as a gov­ern­ment shut­down drags into the long­est in U.S. his­tory, and as the field of 2020 con­tenders widens and an­tic­i­pa­tion grows around big­ger names still con­sid­er­ing runs.

Cas­tro was San An­to­nio’s mayor for five year and U.S. hous­ing sec­re­tary in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sec­ond term. He be­came the sec­ond Demo­crat to for­mally en­ter race, after for­mer Mary­land Rep. John De­laney.

Sen. El­iz­abeth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts has also started an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee for pres­i­dent, and four other Demo­cratic se­na­tors are tak­ing steady steps to­ward run­ning. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard, the first Hindu elected to Con­gress, said this week she is plan­ning a bid, too.

Cas­tro is get­ting an early start in try­ing to stand out. His first trip as a can­di­date comes Mon­day, to hur­ri­cane-rav­aged Puerto Rico, where an out­cry has be­gun as the White House con­sid­ers di­vert­ing dis­as­ter fund­ing to pay for the wall.

The im­passe over pay­ing for a bor­der wall that Trump made a cen­tral part of his 2016 cam­paign has led to the par­tial fed­eral clo­sure. That stale­mate, along with Trump’s hard-line im­mi­gra­tion stands, drew sharp re­bukes from Cas­tro.

“There are se­ri­ous is­sues that need to be ad­dressed in our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, but seek­ing asy­lum is a le­gal right. And the cruel poli­cies of this ad­min­is­tra­tion are do­ing real and last­ing harm,” he said.

He ar­gued for se­cur­ing the bor­der in a “smart and hu­mane way.”

“There is no way in hell that caging ba­bies is a smart or a right or good way to do it. We say no to build­ing a wall and say yes to build­ing com­mu­nity. We say no to scape­goat­ing im­mi­grants,” he said.

Join­ing Cas­tro at the cam­paign kick­off was his twin brother, Demo­cratic Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro, chair­man of the His­panic con­gres­sional cau­cus and a fre­quent Trump critic. The Span­ish-style plaza in the Cas­tro twins’ boy­hood neigh­bor­hood was packed with sup­port­ers who streamed through the gates be­tween a mari­achi band. Cas­tro had said lead­ing up to his an­nounce­ment that a Latino can­di­date was a must in the 2020 field.

That group of hope­fuls is start­ing to take shape even though the first pri­mary elec­tions are more than a year away.

Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia this past week pub­lished a mem­oir , a sta­ple of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. For­mer Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is do­ing lit­tle to dim spec­u­la­tion that he might jump into a field that has no clear front-run­ner.

Cas­tro is aware he lacks the name recog­ni­tion of po­ten­tial 2020 ri­vals or the buzz sur­round­ing O’Rourke, whose flir­ta­tions with 2020 have tan­ta­lized donors and ac­tivists after a close race last year against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Even some sup­port­ers at Cas­tro’s an­nounce­ment could be torn if O’Rourke gets in the race. Di­ana Del­rosario, a so­cial worker in San An­to­nio, warned she might cry while she re­counted how Cas­tro once went out of his way as mayor to help wheel her mother out of a restau­rant.

“I have this heart for Ju­lian. But it’s go­ing to be a big dis­cus­sion if Beto de­cides to run,” said Del­rosario, 45.

Cas­tro, who has re­peat­edly dis­missed talk that an O’Rourke can­di­dacy would com­pli­cate his own chances, has framed the neigh­bor­hood and his up­bring­ing as the story of an un­der­dog.

He was raised by a lo­cal Latina ac­tivist, and after a brief ca­reer in law, was elected mayor of the na­tion’s sev­enth-largest city at 34. It wasn’t long be­fore Democrats na­tion­ally em­braced him as a star in the mak­ing, par­tic­u­larly one from Texas, where a boom­ing His­panic pop­u­la­tion is rapidly chang­ing the state’s de­mo­graph­ics and im­prov­ing the party’s for­tunes.

Cas­tro de­liv­ered the keynote speech at the 2012 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion. Two years later, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama picked him to lead the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment.

ERIC GAY — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

For­mer San An­to­nio Mayor and Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Ju­lian Cas­tro, cen­ter right, is em­braced by his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Cas­tro (D-San An­to­nio), cen­ter left, dur­ing an event where Ju­lian Cas­tro an­nounced his de­ci­sion to seek the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, Satur­day in San An­to­nio.

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