SAN ANTONIO (Nexstar) — After months of speculation, Texan Julián Castro has officially entered the race to become the Democratic nominee for President in the 2020 election.
Castro was secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014-2017. Prior to serving in the Obama Administration, he was Mayor of San Antonio from 2009-2014.
He made the announcement in front of hundreds of supporters at Plaza Guadalupe in San Antonio. Mariachi musicians were on hand as part of the celebratory announcement, paying homage to the Hispanic community from which he comes from. Castro grew up just blocks from where he made this presidential bid official, and was baptized in a nearby church.
"It's here that I got a good public school education, and I had the honor of serving these neighborhoods as mayor of San Antonio," Castro said.
"I’m running for president because it’s time for new leadership, because it’s time for new energy, and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities I’ve had are available for every American," he said to the crowd.
The 2020 hopeful was joined by his wife, Erica, kids Carina and Christian, his mother, activist and educator Rosie Castro, and his brother, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro. Congressman Castro, who is one-minute younger than his twin the candidate, will serve as campaign chairman.
"This is going to be a tough race, and it's going to be a competitive race, but he's not going to focus on what the other candidates are doing- he's focusing on connecting with voters, and speaking to voters, and letting them know what he stands for and laying out his vision for the country," Rep. Castro told reporters after the announcement.
"My brother doesn't start this race with the biggest name, or the biggest bank account, he doesn't start as a front-runner, but in his life he never started as a front-runner. He's beaten bigger odds than this," Rep. Castro said.
Candidate Castro launches his campaign with a focus on education, healthcare, reforms to the immigration system, raising the minimum wage, and climate change, which he called the "biggest threat to our prosperity in the 21st century." He said his first executive order, if elected, would be to reinvolve the country in the Paris Climate Accord.
"Don’t let anybody tell you that we have to choose between growing our economy and protecting our planet. We can fight climate change and create great jobs —and we don’t have a moment to waste."
"If we all work together, we can build a nation more prosperous not only for those already doing well, but for everyone. We can raise the minimum wage, so people don’t have to work two or three jobs to support a family. We can protect a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body, because for women, access to reproductive healthcare is an economic issue. We can protect the right of workers to organize in an economy that is quickly changing and leaving too many families behind. We can protect people from discrimination no matter who they love or how they identify. And we’ll work to make sure every American has a decent, safe, affordable place to live," Castro said in his speech.
As part of his announcement, Castro unfurled his campaign slogan, "One Nation. One Destiny."
Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and son of a Latina activist, took a hard stance on immigration at his announcement. "We must also reform our immigration system so that keeping families together – instead of tearing them apart – is our policy," he said.
"Just a couple days ago, President Trump visited McAllen, Texas—just south of here—after claiming that we’re facing an ‘invasion’ at our border. He called it a national security crisis," he said. "Well, there is a crisis today – it’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation."
Castro said he believed there was a "smart and humane way" to handle border security. "We say no to scapegoating immigrants, and yes to Dreamers, yes to keeping families together, and yes to finally passing comprehensive immigration reform," he said.
Among his first campaign promises, Castro said he would not accept donations from any Political Action Committees (PACs). "As President, we will work to overturn Citizens United—to get big money out of politics."
Not all Texans are excited about Castro's candidacy.
James Dickey, chairman of the Texas Republican Party, said Castro entering the race would drag the party downward and even further left.
"If he becomes nominee for 2020 you can bet he'll throw taxpayer money at every problem," Dickey said in a conference call Saturday morning.
"The current administration is full of promises kept, but Democrats like Castro continue to work toward promises broken," Dickey said.
Democrat Diego Bernal, the state representative who represents the area of San Antonio where he grew up with the Castro brothers, said Castro's experience in the Obama administration would help in the Oval Office.
"No one can be all things to all people, it’s about your judgment, it’s about your ability to build a team, and it’s about your depth of knowledge of the issues," Bernal said. "No one governs alone- no difference here."
"Someone from the neighborhood like this in the running for president, having a legitimate shot, raising all the issues that matter to everyone top to bottom, I think that’s what’s most important. You’re not just speaking to one segment of the country, you’re talking to all segments because you are able to be in all the spaces, that’s what makes him very very unique. It’s more of like a ladder between the treetops and the grassroots he’s in all those places at the same time. That’s super valuable,' Bernal explained.
"He has a big hill to climb, his notoriety among Texas Democratic insiders notwithstanding," Jim Henson, of the Texas Politics Project, said Saturday.
"On the other hand, even though he’s young, he probably does need to test the waters now after all of the hype over the last several years," Henson said, calling the odds "pretty long."
In the last year, Castro has visited New Hampshire and Iowa as he mulled a presidential run.
"I had a great time over there," he said after visiting New Hampshire last year. He said he saw "an appetite for a lot of change," in 2020 and "folks are looking for the next generation of leaders."
When asked about 2018 voter turnout in Feb. at an Austin event he participated in featuring his mother and brother, Castro, charted the reasons to send Texans to the polls.
"If you want better healthcare, better education, better paying jobs than the best way to make that happen is the vote, to participate in electing people who are going to do the right things. If you don’t vote, then whether it’s healthcare, or education, or other things they are going to continue to be subpar in the state of Texas," he told this reporter in Feb.
"We feel that he’s got a lot of political immaturity that he’s facing," conservative commentator George Rodriguez said Saturday. "The crowded field and the Democratic Party is going to make it very difficult for him to survive in my opinion, the primaries."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii said Friday she planned to run in 2020 and would make a formal announcement soon. Two other Democrats, Maryland Rep. John Delaney and West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda II, both previously announced their bids as well. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee on New Year's Eve.
It's unclear whether Former Texas congressman and senate hopeful, Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat from El Paso, would enter the race.
"Thus far (Castro) hasn’t done anything to distinguish himself from the pack of Democratic hopefuls, and Beto O’Rourke’s popularity and possible candidacy have greatly jeopardized any strategy that relies on Texas as part of his delegate strategy in the nomination race," Henson said.
Tulsi Kamath contributed to this report.
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