What Went Wrong With Julián Castro's Run For President?
Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julián Castro is now also a former candidate for president. He announced last week that his campaign for the Democratic nomination lacked the money and the poll numbers. But Castro told Texas Public Radio he isn’t finished having an impact on national politics.
At the now defunct Castro For President campaign headquarters in the Finesilver building in San Antonio – the optimistic posters, streamers and slogans remained on the walls. They still declared that this is Castro Country and Julián is the future.
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And even though Castro is no longer in the hunt for the Democratic presidential nomination – those slogans can still be seen as true – just not right now.
“I could tell that this just isn't our time. I learned that in 2005 when I lost the mayor's race. That wasn't my time. And I feel like that now,” Castro said.
Castro has suffered setbacks before but they didn’t seem to dim his aura of destiny: that somehow he was on a path to national political office, perhaps the presidency.
Castro gained national attention in 2012 when he was the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.
In 2014, he resigned as San Antonio mayor and was appointed by President Barack Obama as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
And in the last presidential election cycle Hillary Clinton publicly considered Castro as a vice president. Of course, Clinton did not tap Castro. Maybe that experience showed him he needed to set his own course to the White House.
But in a campaign post-mortem interview, Castro said his 2020 path did not take short cuts for political convenience.
“We ran this campaign in a different way from everybody else,” he said.
Castro set himself apart from the crowded field of Democratic candidates by speaking out on issues that others were timid about.
“Whether it's police reform or homelessness or kids that are caught up in a foster care system that's broken or migrants that are seeking a better life, that are not a danger to any kind of danger to our nation, but would make it better,” Castro said.
But was that a failed strategy? Were these loser issues? Since obviously Castro isn’t going to be the nominee.
“The issues that people consider quote-unquote ‘loser issues’ now often become the issues that people campaign on and well into the future. And I believe that's going come to pass,” said Castro. “We're going through this moment where people are very cautious and anxious about Donald Trump, but that's not going to last forever. And the calls for equality in our country, the conscience of this country, will move us toward justice and equality for all of the people we were standing up for.”
Castro said a main reason his campaign didn’t find its wings is because, in this election cycle, the central concern for many Democrats is beating incumbent Republican Donald Trump. He says many Democrats are looking for electability in a nominee.
“Right now there is a sense that, ‘Hey, we just need to get this guy out of office. This president is uniquely bad president.’ And so, you do have a consensus of trying to, you know, focus on whatever is going to guarantee getting Donald Trump out of office among, especially among primary Democrats,” he said.
And Castro says he’s going to do his part to do that.
“Whoever wins the nomination? I'm going to be there. Whatever they need, I'm going to help make sure that I'm there. I'm sure my brother Joaquin will also,” he said.
Meanwhile, in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian General Soleimani. Castro is calling for the Trump administration to provide the evidence that Iran was planning terror attacks that would take American lives.
“We should have learned from the experience with the Iraq War is the American people deserve the truth instead of lies. And especially with this president that has such a clear track record of lying to the America people,” Castro said.
Although Castro’s presidential run didn’t reach its stated goal – that doesn’t mean it was a failure. The Latino demographic continues to grow in political importance, and among Latino Democrats, Castro is now positioned as one of their top standard bearers. And that may come into play in the next round of VP sweepstakes.
David Martin Davies can be reached at DMDavies@TPR.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi.