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San Antonio Native Son Launches Presidential Bid

Julián Castro speaking in January, 2019.
Joey Palacios | Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Democrat Julian Castro officially announces his run for president Saturday.



Standing in the shadows of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Democrat Julian Castro — the former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — made his announcement to enter the 2020 presidential campaign Saturday by retracing his own families footprint in this neighborhood that stands as one of San Antonio’s oldest Hispanic communities.

“This is a special place for all of us, this West Side of San Antonio. This is the place where my grandmother Victoria came in 1922 when she immigrated from Mexico as a 7-year-old orphan.  This is the place where my mother became an activist, working to improve the life of her own community,” Castro said.

Castro, 44, during his speech also referenced his mom, Rosie Castro, a one-time member of the La Raza movement.

“I bet there are a lot of y’all that have come here to see her, instead of me. You see, I learned from my mother so many years ago in this community and when we want change, we don’t wait for change, we work for it. When my grandmother got here almost 100 years ago, I’m sure she never could’ve imagined that one of her grandsons 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.

After her son’s announcement, Rosie Castro was asked why 2020 should be the year America elects its first Latino president.

“Many of us would agree that this president has done everything he can to make Latinos, Mexican-Americans, to talk about us in a negative way,” she said. “We don’t believe in that in this country. I think Julian will be able to bring us back to values that are really American values.”

Julian Castro, in his speech, promised to be the voice for those who feel forgotten by the Trump administration.

Credit White House
Julian Castro served as HUD secretary under President Obama.

“We say no to building a wall and yes to community; we say no to scapegoating immigrants and yes to Dreamers; yes to keeping families together; yes to finally passing comprehensive immigration reform in this country,” Castro said.

During an interview with TPR on Thursday, Castro was asked him how he planned to entice those who may have supported Trump’s candidacy and nationalist movement in 2016.

“I think it’s swinging back in the other direction now because people realize that immigrants are not the problem in this country, whether documented or undocumented,” he said. “Being there at the Ursula Processing Center near McAllen, which is a processing center where they were separating children from their families as part of Trump’s policy, many of the activists there did not have the color of my skin.”

That message of inclusion was the central topic of Castro’s announcement speech and has also been a running theme throughout his political career.

Castro, in 2001 after graduating from Stanford and Harvard Law University, went on to become the youngest city council member in San Antonio’s history, at age 26. In 2009, Castro was elected mayor of San Antonio and spearheaded community improvement efforts like SA2020, a collective effort of how San Antonians want their city to appear in 2020.  

Then, in 2012, Castro, as mayor led a $30 million voter-approved tax referendum aimed at providing pre-K education to anyone in the city. The program was called PreK4SA.

“Here in San Antonio I made PreK4SA happen, as president I will make pre-K for the USA happen — universal pre-K for all parents who want it,” Castro said.

Castro, who served as HUD secretary the last two years of the Obama administration, also spoke of some of the housing initiatives he made that are also a part of his presidential campaign.

Credit Ryan Loyd / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Then-Mayor Julian Castro greeted children as they arrived for their first day of Pre-K4SA in the fall of 2013.

“In the Obama administration, we made ending homelessness a priority, starting with veterans’ homelessness. And by the time we were done we cut veterans homelessness almost in half and in the years to come we can do that and even more,” Castro said.

In 2016, Castro found himself on a short list of potential running mates for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.  

Three years later, Castro finds himself on another list — a list of prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, all who have either announced an exploratory campaign or hinted at a presidential run.

Castro was asked how to compete in what will likely be a crowded Democratic primary.

“I think you’re right, it’s going to be crowded; we don’t know everyone that’s going to get in but probably a lot of folks. Look, I’ve always believed that you need to give people a sense of your vision and I’m going to go out there and make the case about my vision and my passion and see what happens,” Castro said.

Castro joins Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former Maryland Congressman John Delaney, who have officially announced their 2020 presidential intentions.

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.