Julián Castro Rallies Houston Crowd Against Long Odds

HOUSTON (CN) — As Houston prepared for Thursday’s third Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, Julián Castro visited Warehouse Live just east of downtown for his latest rally, with live music from a local band and a suite of endorsements from Texas politicians and celebrities.

Julián Castro stumps in Houston Monday night. (James Palmer photo/Courthouse News)

The audience was greeted by a local band, Free Radicals, as they filed into the cavernous converted warehouse to hear Castro speak. The downtown area was bustling with sports fans filling up cash-only parking lots an Astros home games, and a few hundred crowded into the main hall of the industrial concert venue under coiled chandeliers lit with LED candles.

As a San Antonio native, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and his surrogates peppered their Latino and Texas roots, with “y’alls” and cheers of “sí, se puede” (yes, you can) from the audience.

Actress and comedian Cristela Alonzo repeated her speech’s closing remarks in Spanish at the rally.

Castro was introduced by several supporters, including former Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Houston Controller Chris Brown.

“I’ve seen him as a leader,” Van de Putte told the crowd. “I’ve seen him mature from a teenager at Jefferson High School in San Antonio to take advantage of great universities and an educational system [and take advantage] of understanding that the American story is not limited to the ZIP code that you’re born into.

“He will fight for us, and that is why I’m supporting Julian Castro,” Van de Putte said.

Brown, who was endorsed by both Julián Castro and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, framed his endorsement through the lens of urban development.

“I believe that Julian’s plan to build an economy that works for all Americans is the right path forward and is critical to the collective future of our city, state, and nation,” Brown said.

Alonzo also endorsed Castro, whom she called a “hometown hero” for Latino voters in Texas. She said Castro’s representation in national politics was important to her community.

“I want that chance to be heard,” Alonzo said.

Alonzo also lauded Castro’s support for Medicare for All legislation: She was diagnosed with diabetes shortly after receiving health insurance from her self-named sitcom on ABC, “Cristela.”

Castro and his supporters highlighted the importance of rising up marginalized groups, which at least one member of the audience noticed, particularly regarding some of his sign messaging.

“People first” attendee Bridgette Jensen reflected on the sign after the rally. Jensen said she felt that Castro’s message represented his campaign as a whole by emphasizing the humanity in each of us, rather than just the work people do.

Though Jensen said that Castro may not be her top pick for the Democratic nomination yet, she said, “The more I hear, the more I like.” She danced in an Astros T-shirt through all of Free Radicals’ songs during the opening set.

Castro polled at 0% in the latest national survey from ABC News/Washington Post, published Sunday, and polled at 4% via the Texas Democratic Primary on Sept. 5.

In the first Democratic debate in July, Castro drew attention with his immigration proposals, which included decriminalizing illegal border crossings and making them civil violations. Though online searches for Castro spiked after the first debate, he has yet to overtake his Texas rival, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who polled at 18% in Texas and 3% nationally.

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