SAN ANTONIO –– Julian Castro, a former U.S. housing and urban development secretary and mayor of San Antonio, announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination Saturday.
"I'm running for president because it's time for new leadership. It's time for new energy," he said in English and Spanish. He said he wants the U.S. to be the most prosperous, smartest and healthiest nation on earth.
Among the topics Castro addressed in a speech in his hometown Saturday:
–– Health care: "Medicare should be there for everybody in this country. It's time for Medicare for All."
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–– Higher education: "We'll work to make the first two years of college, a certification program or an apprenticeship accessible and affordable, so millions more people get the skills they need to get a good job without drowning in debt.
–– Affordable housing: "We will invest in housing that's affordable to the middle class and to the poor."
–– Climate change: "We can fight climate change and create great jobs here in America." He said first act as president would be to sign an executive order getting the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement.
As Castro spoke, the Republican Party called him a lightweight and listed negative "things to know" about him.
"Julian Castro has made history by becoming one of the biggest lightweights to ever run for president. He was a weak mayor who couldn't even handle being HUD secretary," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said." This is obviously just another desperate attempt to become someone else's running mate."
Castro, 4, rose to prominence as San Antonio mayor and caught the eye of President Barack Obama. He was mayor from 2009 to 2014 and was known as a bridge-builder who managed to persuade residents and business leaders to back a $30 million sales tax proposal to fund pre-kindergarten education.
In 2010, Time magazine named him as one of the "40 under 40" rising American political stars. Before he became mayor, Castro, at age 26, was the youngest person elected to the San Antonio city council.
National Democrats, looking to develop young Hispanic leaders and make inroads to that critical election demographic, began mentioning Castro as a budding star. He gave the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. His star continued to rise as he was mentioned as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton in 2016 – a position that went to Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Castro likely will face a crowded field. Potential candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey are ahead of Castro in name recognition. And former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the 2016 runner-up to Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, have more standing with voters than Castro.
But his biggest hurdle may be at home in Texas, where there are signs that former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, now the most popular Democrat in Texas, is seriously considering a presidential campaign.
Castro's twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, will be his campaign chairman.