SAN ANTONIO ― Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro officially announced a run for the White House on Saturday, becoming one of the first fully committed candidates in what is expected to become a crowded contest for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
The former mayor of San Antonio made his announcement at Guadalupe Plaza on the city’s west side, blocks from the home where he grew up and the church where he was baptized.
“So many journeys for me and my family have started right here. Today we begin another one,” Castro said.
“With big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this country,” the candidate added. “This community represents America’s future: diverse, fast-growing, optimistic. … I’m proud to call myself a son of San Antonio.”
Castro, 44, has long showed signs of high political ambitions, but has not been known for staking out controversial positions. Since announcing his presidential exploratory committee, however, he has planted himself firmly within the rising progressive side of the Democratic Party.
He backs “Medicare for all.” He’s rejecting corporate PAC donations and urging other Democratic presidential hopefuls to do the same. He’s embraced the Green New Deal. And he’s spoken positively about a proposal to hike the marginal tax rate for multimillionaires championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
The then-mayor rose to national prominence in 2012 when he was selected to give the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. He joined the Obama administration as the head of HUD two years later, giving him a national profile and feeding speculation that he might become the running mate of his party’s 2016 presidential nominee. (Hillary Clinton ultimately chose Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia instead.)
Over the last two years, however, Castro’s star has waned, as he stayed out of electoral politics while former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke ran an underdog campaign that brought Texas Democrats within striking distance of winning statewide office for the first time in two decades.
Instead, Castro played a quieter role behind the scenes, supporting dozens of young and progressive candidates around the country through his political action committee Opportunity First.
“He crisscrossed the country in support of candidates,” Latino Victory Fund Director Cristóbal Alex told HuffPost. “He was one of the most sought-after Latino surrogates in the country.”
Castro had already indicated his intentions to run, making a trip to Iowa in August ahead of the midterm elections, releasing a memoir in October and launching an exploratory committee in December, which gave him the legal ability to begin raising campaign money.
In a video announcing the exploratory committee last month, he highlighted the importance of good health care, education and a clean environment. He also stressed the value of hard work, which he said he and his twin brother, Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), learned from their immigrant grandmother and their single mother.
“She taught my brother and me that if you want to make a change in your life, in your community, you don’t wait, you work,” Julián Castro said of his mother in the video. “So I’m taking a lesson from my mother — if we want to see a change in this country, we don’t wait. We work. We make our future happen.”
In the Democratic primary, Castro will likely face off against Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced that she had launched her own exploratory committee. The primary is expected to be packed with contenders, including several other senators and former Vice President Joe Biden.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), an Iraq War veteran who backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, announced Friday that she too would run.