For­mer hous­ing sec­re­tary Cas­tro en­ters 2020 race

The News Tribune - - Nation & World - BY MAG­GIE AS­TOR New York Times

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

MARIA.

ERIC GAY AP

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.

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