Ahead of N.H. visit, Castro lays out timetable for 2020 decision

  • Julian Castro Courtesy—

For the Monitor
Sunday, February 11, 2018

Julian Castro says he’ll decide by the end of this year whether he makes a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

“After the November election, I then take a little bit of time and by the end of the year I’ll make a decision on the next couple of years,” the former San Antonio mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary under President Barack Obama said in a recent interview with the Monitor and WKXL radio.

Castro will make his first trip this cycle to an early voting state when he heads to Manchester on Friday to headline the New Hampshire Young Democrats’ Granite Slate Awards.

Castro grabbed national attention nearly six years ago when he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic presidential nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C., and the 2020 talk draws a strong parallel to Obama, who also gained prominence after his 2004 keynote. Castro was the first Latino politician to give the high-profile address.

Castro returned to San Antonio after Obama left the White House just over a year ago. He’s writing a memoir and is a distinguished fellow at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

He said Donald Trump’s presidency has so far “lived up to the fears that many of us had. And I say that with regards to its extremism but also its incompetence. And New Hampshire has a front-row seat to how some of this incompetence affects the everyday lives of people.”

“We need effective governance,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what your political stripe is. I think more and more people are going to recognize that.”

But Castro sees a silver lining in Trump’s presidential election.

“I believe that November 2016 provided a tremendous wake-up call to a lot of Americans to different stripes,” he said. “And that’s why you see people marching all over the country. That’s why you see them signing up to run for office in record numbers. And these are not people from any one group, any one background. They are from across the board.”

Castro said his main political mission this year is to get Democrats elected to office. Last month, he launched the political action committee Opportunity First, which aims to elect young progressives to federal, state and local offices.

“I can’t tell you how many folks have told me over the last year that everything that’s happening in D.C. keeps them up at night. That they feel more anxious than they have in a long time. They don’t know what’s coming next,” he said.

The only hope for more checks and balances, he said, is more Democrats in office.

“The only way that you’re going to get any kind of real accountability is if you get a Democratic Congress, because this Republican Congress has shown that it is completely unable to hold this administration accountable,” he said.

Not running for office personally doesn’t mean he’ll have idle time. He said he will be busy helping others who are running in 2018.

Castro urged Democrats running this year to embrace a message that advocates for universal pre-K education, universal health care, and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

Castro acknowledged that his upcoming stop in the first-in-the-nation primary state will spark more speculation about his presidential aspirations. His trip to New Hampshire is his first since January 2016, when he and his twin brother, congressman Joaquin Castro, parachuted into the state to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

New Hampshire Young Democrats President Lucas Meyer said Castro will be the first non-Granite Stater to keynote their annual event. The organization has grown in size and strength the past couple of years, and the group was credited for much of the Democrats’ success this past November in Nashua’s municipal elections, where the party swept contests for ward and at-large aldermen, defeating several incumbent Republicans.

Castro complimented the group for inspiring good, young candidates to run for office and said the organizers are great role models for other states to follow.

Castro’s visit this week likely won’t be his only stop in the state this year.

“I’d love to get back there,” he said. “If I’m invited to get back up there to support some great candidates, I’m happy to do it.”

With Granite State Democrats aiming to hold on to both congressional seats while trying to win back the governor’s office and both branches of the state Legislature this year, it’s likely he’ll see more invitations.

Castro will be the second Democratic White House hopeful to visit New Hampshire in 2018.

Last month, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland made a two-day swing. It was his fifth trip to the Granite State since announcing his candidacy for president last summer.

Later this month, former Missouri secretary of state and Let America Vote founder Jason Kander plans to return to New Hampshire for his eighth trip over the past year.

In 2017, a slew of potential 2020 Democratic White House contenders made stops in New Hampshire. Among them were former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who battled Clinton to the end of the 2016 primaries. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, another 2016 presidential candidate, and Ohio congressman Tim Ryan each made three trips. And Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made the trek all the way from California.

While praising a bunch of the Democratic Party’s veteran leaders, the 43-year-old Castro said, “It’s always good to allow new leaders to take the mantle.”

“I think that, in 2020, that the American people are going to look to the next generation for leadership. And the good news there is that we have a great bench, a very talented bench,” he said. “I think that we’re going to have an embarrassment of riches up on the stage in 2020.”