SAN ANTONIO — Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio who worked in the Obama administration, announced Saturday morning that he is joining the increasingly crowded field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Castro, 44, has pitched himself as “the antidote to Donald Trump” who understands the immigrant experience, border issues and the needs of the middle class. If elected, he would be the nation’s first Latino president.
“When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago, 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 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 said Saturday morning, standing in San Antonio’s historic Plaza Guadalupe.
Castro’s announcement was not exactly a surprise, as he launched an exploratory committee on Dec. 12 — and, the next night, his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), jokingly turned that exploration into a full commitment when the two appeared together on CBS’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
As Colbert pressed Julián Castro on his 2020 plans, Joaquin Castro jumped in and said: “I’ll speak on his behalf here. He’s going to run for president. How about that? For the FEC lawyers: He didn’t say it! I said it.” (As soon as a candidate decides to run for president, the Federal Election Commission requires that he or she file paperwork and begin properly reporting the money that they collect and spend.)
Colbert then coyly said to Julián Castro: “I have heard from someone very close to you that you are going to run for president.”
Julián Castro laughed and said: “I’m excited. It’s going to be, I think, a great journey. As you know, I think the country needs new leadership, now more than ever.”
Castro grew up in an activist family in San Antonio, studied at Stanford University and Harvard Law School, and was elected to the San Antonio City Council when he was just 26. He ran for mayor of San Antonio twice, losing the first time in 2005 and then winning in 2009. Castro expanded prekindergarten programs in the city and opened Cafe College, where students can get help applying to college. As the youngest mayor of a top U.S. city, Castro quickly attracted national attention and built relationships with Democratic leaders and fellow Latino lawmakers across the country. During a visit to the White House in December 2009, President Obama joked that he thought the young mayor “was an intern.”
Castro was the first Latino to give a keynote speech at a Democratic National Convention. In his July 2012 speech, Castro told the country about being raised by his single mother and grandmother, an immigrant from Mexico who dropped out of school in the fourth grade. He criticized the Republican promises of trickle-down economics and advocated for programs that help the middle class and families like his, including Pell grants to help pay for college, job creation and protecting undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children.
“In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay,” Castro said in that speech. “Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”
In May 2014, Obama nominated Castro to become the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was confirmed later that summer, making him the youngest member of Obama’s Cabinet, and spent 2½ years in the position. During the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton considered picking Castro as her running mate but eventually settled on Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).
After Trump won the presidency, Castro left HUD and started the Opportunity First political action committee that supports young liberal Democratic candidates. The committee’s name is a play on Trump’s promise of “America First.” He also wrote a memoir that was published in October, “An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American Dream.” Castro lives in San Antonio with his wife, an elementary school teacher, and their two young children.
Although Castro was widely discussed as a possible candidate for governor in Texas in 2018, he decided not to run — and then watched as Beto O’Rourke, then a Democratic congressman from El Paso, ran for senate and built a national following. O’Rourke is also considering a run for the White House, although those close to him do not expect him to make a decision until February.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced her candidacy on New Year’s Eve, joining former congressman John Delaney of Maryland and former state senator Richard Ojeda of West Virginia. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was to announce her candidacy Saturday night on CNN, the network said Friday. Another two dozen potential candidates are believed to be considering a race for the right to face off against President Trump.