Julián Castro, the former Obama-era housing and urban development secretary, is offering a broad vision for a potential presidential campaign and articulating the anxieties that he says communities of color face under President Donald Trump’s administration, as he publicly explores entering the 2020 Democratic primary.
“I’m clearly leaning in a certain direction,” Castro told BuzzFeed News over a brief phone call outlining his plans to fundraise and make potential staffing decisions ahead of a Jan. 12 announcement of his decision in San Antonio, Texas, where he served as mayor before joining the Obama administration. “We’ll be using the next few weeks to put the building blocks in place if there is a campaign.”
Castro’s decision to publicly launch an exploratory committee for 2020 on Wednesday gives him a head start on traveling the country ahead of what’s expected to be a broad field of Democratic candidates. “Some folks have said, ‘Is it too early to form an exploratory committee or go forward?’ And I’ve got to move forward on my own timeline. I have a strong vision for the country’s future and I have no doubt there are going to be a whole bunch of other candidates in the race and they’re going to have their own plans and their own timelines, but I’m sticking to mine.”
Castro said that while his team is still finalizing a travel schedule for the next month, he plans on making public appearances across the country, including in some of the early primary states. “I’ve been to the first four states already, so I’m going to focus on those states if I get in and some of the states that vote on Super Tuesday, including Texas,” he said.
“Politics is always about your message, how hard you work to get support, and also timing. So I’m going to get out there and I’m going to work hard and I’m going to deliver a message about the country’s future and my experience of getting things done, and people are going to have a choice to make,” Castro said about visiting early-voting states in the primaries like Nevada, South Carolina, and New Hampshire.
“I’m confident if I decide to run I can win the nomination,” he added.
Castro, whose mother is a Chicana activist, hasn’t shied away from addressing racial and religious identity and its prominence in politics, a shift from 2010 when the New York Times Magazine reported that he was wary of referring to himself as “brown,” using the term “people of color” to describe Mexican Americans, and considered younger generations less burdened than previous generations.
“We can’t compare 1928 or 1968 to 2018 and say that on the whole things are worse for people of color or other vulnerable communities than they were 50 years ago or 80 years ago,” Castro explained after taking a pause. “But what we can say is that this generation has a particular charge to push back against an administration that is trying to take us backward and has begun to incite the kind of anxiety and fear in generations past and, more than that, is now trying to undermine civil rights laws and laws that would protect the rights and liberties of vulnerable communities. And we need to stop that before it goes and gets as bad as it was in generations past.”
If Castro does continue with a campaign, he’ll likely be the only Latino candidate running for the presidency. “I wish that it didn’t take until 2012 for a Latino to address the DNC and that my candidacy, if I run in 2020, would not be as rare as it has been,” Castro said, reflecting on his keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “Going forward, the challenge for me is to articulate a strong vision for the future that includes everybody. At the same time, right now the Latino community feels attacked by this administration, and so of course there’s a special significance to me standing up on that stage.”
Castro said he’s not worried about another possible presidential bid from a Texas Democrat, as Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost his Senate race against Ted Cruz this year, mulls a run. “He’s a talented person and I’m sure he’s going to make his own decision and plan, and there are going to be 20 other folks making their own plans, too. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to focus on speaking directly to the American people and articulating my own strong vision for the country’s future.”
He does, however, believe that having a Texan on the presidential ticket in 2020 can do something that hasn't been done since 1976: give Texas's electoral votes to Democrats.
“I’m confident that if a Texas Democrat is on the ballot in 2020 that Texas will go Democratic,” Castro said, while commenting on the state of the Democratic Party’s outreach to Latino voters.
O'Rourke, asked about Castro's deliberations on Friday, said he thinks “it's something positive for the United States that he can offer and share ideas,” but that his own decision won't be impacted by Castro's.
Castro said that he’s not intimidated by the large field of potential candidates who have embraced policies further to the left as some of the most prominent possible candidates have endorsed Medicare for All and free college, and as progressive activists have pushed them to embrace policy packages like the Green New Deal.
“You’re going to have a whole range of perspectives represented on the debate stage. I consider myself a progressive and I look forward to articulating my own vision for the future, and then the voters are going to make their choices based on what they hear from a whole bunch of talented people,” Castro said. “I have no doubt that a lot of what I talk about many folks are going to agree with wholeheartedly, and there may be some things that I talk about that folks don’t agree with as wholeheartedly.”