SAN ANTONIO (CN) — Standing under a clear blue sky in the city he led as mayor, Julian Castro, the former housing and urban development secretary announced on Saturday that he will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
“I’ve learned from my mother so many years ago that when we want change, we don’t wait for change, we work for it,” Castro said, between chants of “Julian! Julian!” from the crowd of several thousand.
Castro, 44, offers voters a resumé that includes more than two years as an Obama Cabinet official and five as mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city.
Delivering his remarks at the historic Plaza Guadalupe on the city’s West Side, where he grew up, Castro was surrounded by his family, including twin brother Congressman Joaquin Castro, and a few thousand supporters.
If elected, he would become the nation’s first Latino president, and first identical twin president.
“When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago, I’m sure that she never could have imagined that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving in the United States Congress, and the other would be saying these words: ‘I am a candidate for president of the United States of America,’” Castro told the cheering crowd.
He said he was entering the race to reinstill solid leadership and “to make sure that the opportunities I’ve had are available for every American.
“In the years to come, we must go forward as one nation, working toward one destiny. And that destiny is to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest, and the most prosperous nation on earth,” Castro said.
The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Castro said he would focus on issues that include the nation’s “broken immigration system,” health care and creating jobs, and called climate change “the biggest threat to our prosperity in this 21st century.”
“Don’t let anybody tell you that you have to choose between growing our economy and protecting our planet. We can fight climate change and create great jobs in America,” Castro said, vowing to recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Accord as his first executive order.
He said his campaign would reject money from political action committees.
Castro, elected San Antonio mayor in 2009, came into the national spotlight after delivering the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he served as HUD secretary under President Obama from 2014 to 2017.
“Look around,” Castro told the crowd. “There are no frontrunners that are born here, but I’ve always believed that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country.”
Margot Sarabia, 47, said she grew up in San Antonio alongside Castro, and like him, graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School.
“He’s loyal, trustworthy and works hard,” said Sarabia, a teacher at San Antonio’s Adams Hill Elementary School. “He’s been the mayor, he’s worked at HUD, he’s a go-getter.”
Austin resident Yvonne Flores said she wants somebody in the White House “that’s going to represent the working class.”
“I know all about the Castro brothers and the history of Rosie Castro,” Flores said, referring to the twins’ mother. A teacher and civil rights activist. “And to see a single mom have these two amazing sons be where they’re at today, it’s inspirational. It’s motivational, and it just really hits close to home and it means a lot to me,” she said, adding: “He’ll be amazing for the country.”
Castro faces a list of about two dozen potential Democratic candidates, including fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman whose strong but unsuccessful campaign against Senator Ted Cruz electrified Democrats, and obliterated fundraising records.
Senator Kamala Harris of California is expected to launch her presidential campaign sometime around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Other Democrats expected to run include former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Ruben Cortez Jr., a Brownsville resident and member of the Texas State Board of Education, who brought several young members of his family to watch Castro’s announcement, said that backing him “wasn’t a hard decision.”
“It’s important that we have diverse representation, I think the highest office in the country is more than ready for a Latino,” Cortez said.
Castro will deliver a speech at the Latino Victory Fund’s annual summit on Monday in Puerto Rico, his first campaign stop, before traveling to New Hampshire.
Castro on Saturday mocked Trump’s recent visit to the Texas border and his insistence that an “invasion” of immigrants has created a national security crisis.
“There is a crisis today — it’s a crisis of leadership,” Castro said. “Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”