By Eric Gasa
Though not a frontrunner in the 2020 election, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro will be the first to tell you that he was never born a frontrunner either. The son of political activists and a beneficiary of affirmative action, Castro knows a thing or two about beating the odds. From his first failed run for mayor to his road to Capitol Hill, sometimes what matters most is not always being at the top but taking the journey in stride. Though Castro may seem like another fresh face in a very crowded field, he has a story, message, and platform worth sharing to Americans and future Latino leaders in this country.
The son of esteemed Chicana activist Maria “Rosie” Castro, Julian was raised in San Antonio with a servant’s heart. After graduating, Julian and his twin brother Joaquin both pursued law degrees at Harvard then later careers in politics. In 2004, Julian lost a bid for mayor of San Antonio only to run again and succeed in 2009. After winning another two elections he resigned as mayor to join President Obama’s cabinet as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In 2012, he made history as the first Latino speaker to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
The latest bullet point in his burgeoning political career, Castro announced his bid for presidency on January, 12, 2019.Though his polling remains in the single digits, Castro managed to make a big splash in the September Democratic debate.
In a follow up question about Barack Obama’s administration deporting over 3 million undocumented persons, the most in U.S. history, Castro was blunt and to the point regarding Joe Biden’s relationship with the former president.
“[Biden] wants to take credit for Obama’s work but doesn’t want to answer any questions,” he replied pointblank.
Later in the debate Castro took another jab at Biden for forgetting some of the finer points of his own healthcare program which was followed by gasps, cheers, and boos from some. It was a rare breakout moment for a second-tier candidate that garnered buzz, criticism, and notoriety the next morning. Castro had shown his fangs and carried the night. Even while sparring with the former VP, Castro’s booming voice even suggested the oratorical candor of his last boss, President Obama.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not,” Castro said sharply to Vice President Biden.
But other than taking some risky shots on the debate stage what else does Julian Castro stand for? Well, as the son of Mexican-American parents, immigration is a hardline issue for Castro, who believes in granting amnesty to undocumented persons. At the September debates, Castro called out President Trump for his “dark heart” towards immigrants and raising racial divisions in this country.
Though opposition to Trump’s xenophobia is a given for any Democratic contender, Castro casts a split between the moderates and the progressives. Castro’s platform aligns more with Senator Warren or maybe even Senator Sanders, but he avoids the democratic-socialist tagline and any criticism of capitalism.
As the meaning of liberalism becomes more socially progressive, Castro walks the party line accordingly by supporting reproductive rights, LGBT rights, tighter gun control, the Green New Deal, $15 minimum wage, and Medicare for All. Castro also vowed not to accept any PAC money from large donors. In 2020 this is the bread and butter of any Democratic ticket today, but is it enough to encourage voters to split with Biden or Bernie?
As the polls show, probably not, but much of this can be owed to the simple value of name recognition in this crowded field. Though it is unlikely that Castro will be making the Democratic nomination, his presence in this race illuminates Latino political visibility. He joins a new league of young Latino lawmakers, like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez who are shaking up the system and will no doubt inspire countless others.
“What I learned from my mother so many years ago in this community is that when we want change we don’t wait for change, we work for it,” Castro said on the morning of his candidacy announcement. He spoke proudly about his heritage and how 100 years ago his immigrant grandmother would’ve never imagined that in two generations, one of her grandchildren would be a sitting U.S. congressman and the other running for president of the United States.
Though people of color in this country live in socially divisive and trying times it is always enlightening to see members of the community speaking out and punching up, fighting for change for all of us.
As Castro runs for president he aims to do exactly that; he’s the long shot close to the hearts of Latinos all over this country.
About the Writer:
Eric Z. Gasa is a freelance writer residing in St. Louis, MO. He is experienced in ghost writing, cultural criticism, feature articles, and interviews. Eric is also a frequent contributor to Creative Media Times, The Waster rock blog, Odometer, Kabazi, and other publications across the country. You can view his portfolio or reach out to him on his website, ericzeusgasa.com