SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro officially dropped out of the presidential race Thursday, ending a year-long progressive campaign that struggled to break through to voters despite the Texas Democrat’s pacesetting policy initiatives on immigration and social issues.
“I’m so proud of the campaign we’ve run together. We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people, and given a voice to those who are often forgotten,” Castro, 45, said in a video released Thursday morning.
“But with only a month until the Iowa caucuses, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time,” he added.
With Castro’s departure, there are now 14 candidates left in the Democratic primary. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads most national polls, while other top candidates include Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as well as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and former San Antonio mayor who spent five years as former President Barack Obama’s housing secretary, became a liberal firebrand on the campaign trail after announcing his White House bid in his hometown Jan. 12, the first in the crowded field to make it official.
“There are no frontrunners that are born here,” Castro said of the San Antonio neighborhood he grew up in when announcing his run with his mother Rosie Castro, a civil rights activist, and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, by his side. “But I’ve always believed that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country.”
He became a vocal advocate on issues of immigration reform, housing, LGBTQ rights, health care, criminal justice and climate change. The only Latino in the race, Castro was also among the first Democratic candidates to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“I’ve had a unique voice in the campaign,” Castro said on a call with reporters in December, still hopeful that his campaign would catch on.
But despite his resume and aggressive campaign schedule, Castro’s polling numbers in early primary states and national surveys never allowed him to rise to top-tier candidate status. Democratic Party rules shut him out of the last two debates due to low polling, and although his fundraising spiked in recent weeks, it still wasn’t enough to sustain him through the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses and beyond.
“I’m not done fighting. I’ll keep working toward a nation where everyone counts. A nation where everyone can get a good job, good health care, and a decent place to live,” Castro said.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Castro “made Texas proud.”
“Julian Castro has stood for the voiceless and those left forgotten his entire career, and his presidential campaign was no different. Our country is better off because of Julian Castro’s bold and progressive solutions that challenged the status quo and put people first,” Hinojosa said. “We look forward to his future.”