Former housing secretary Castro enters 2020 race
Julián Castro, former housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, announced Saturday he would run for president, one of the most high-profile Latino Democrats ever to seek the party’s nomination.
His first campaign stop will be in Puerto Rico, where he will speak Monday at the Latino Victory Fund’s annual summit and meet with residents still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria. Later in the week, his campaign said, he will go to New Hampshire.
“When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago,” Castro said at the Plaza Guadalupe amphitheater in San Antonio, in the neighborhood where he was raised, “I’m sure that she never could have imagined that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress (Rep. Joaquin Castro) and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words: I am a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
Castro’s announcement had been expected for several weeks. He established an exploratory committee in December, two months after publishing a memoir, “An Unlikely Journey” – a familiar path for presidential candidates who want to play up their life stories and qualifications. This month, he also visited two of the early caucus and primary states, Iowa and Nevada.
He joins Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland on the still-short list of Democrats who have said definitively they will seek the party’s 2020 nomination. That list is expected to grow considerably.
In his speech Saturday, Castro emphasized education, calling for a national version of the universal prekindergarten program he established in San Antonio when he was mayor. To fund the program there, he increased the city’s sales tax – a politically risky proposition, especially in Texas, but San Antonio voters approved it.
His message was firmly progressive. He called for a higher minimum wage, denounced police killings of African-Americans, which he described as “state violence,” and embraced the Black Lives Matter movement. He also condemned President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, including the practice of family separation and the proposed border wall, and declared that his first executive order if elected would be to rejoin the Paris climate accords, which Trump left.
George Rodriguez, a conservative blogger, talk-show host and Fox News contributor whom Texas Republican leaders designated as their spokesman on the announcement, said after the speech that the discussion of immigration had stood out to him. Castro, he said, did not “seem to be able to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration.”
Rodriguez also argued that the San Antonio pre-K program, which was one of Castro’s chief accomplishments as mayor, had duplicated existing programs like Head Start. “How much of an accomplishment that is is rather dubious,” he said.
Castro, 44, was raised in San Antonio in a politically active family. His mother, Rosie Castro, was an activist with the Mexican-American political party La Raza Unida and frequently took Julián and his twin brother, Joaquin – now a congressman – to rallies and meetings. Joaquin Castro will be the chairman of Julián’s campaign.
At the age of 26, Castro became San Antonio’s youngest City Council member, and after one unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2005, he was elected to the city’s top job in 2009. In 2012, he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention – the same platform that catapulted Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator, to national prominence in 2004. Obama, as president, later chose him to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In a statement Saturday, the Republican National Committee previewed one of the main arguments it is likely to use against Castro, calling him a “lightweight” without the experience needed to be president.
Among the Democrats frequently mentioned as 2020 contenders, he is the only Latino, and also one of the youngest. If elected, he would be the thirdyoungest person ever to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt (42) and John F. Kennedy (43).
The full field of candidates could include former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who ran a high-profile but unsuccessful campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz last year.
HIS FIRST CAMPAIGN STOP WILL BE IN
PUERTO RICO, WHERE HE WILL SPEAK MONDAY AT THE LATINO VICTORY FUND’S ANNUAL SUMMIT AND MEET WITH RESIDENTS STILL STRUGGLING TO RECOVER FROM HURRICANE
Julián Castro, former San Antonio mayor and former housing and urban development secretary, announces his candidacy Saturday in San Antonio. Last year, he published a memoir and established an exploratory committee.