Julian Castro isn’t one of the bigger names in the crowded field of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, but he could break through with his unique policy proposals and experience managing large bureaucracies and budgets.
The former mayor of San Antonio delivered the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address in 2012, which former President Barack Obama gave eight years earlier. He was the youngest member of Obama’s cabinet, serving as U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017.
Castro is a third-generation Mexican-American and, if elected, will be the first Hispanic and Latino president of the United States. Here, ELLE.com breaks down where Castro stands on the nine issues voters cared about most going into the midterm elections.
Like several of his fellow Democrat candidates, Castro endorses “Medicare-for-all.” He would consider paying for the system by raising taxes on corporations and on the wealthiest “0.05, 0.5 or 1 percent” of Americans, according to PBS.
During his time in government, Castro has also implemented several health initiatives, including a 2016 ban on smoking in public housing. “Public housing will go smoke-free and remain smoke-free, and, because of that,” Castro, then HUD secretary, said, “so many folks are going to live healthier lives and have a better shot at reaching their dreams because they have good health.”
He’s sought to separate himself from other candidates by campaigning on a unique universal pre-K program, based on a similar initiative he launched in 2012 while mayor of San Antonio. According to CNBC, “The city increased its sales tax by one-eighth of a cent, raising about $31 million each year to provide free and low-cost early education for four-year-olds. As a result, more than 22,000 children are set to benefit from the program over 8 years.”
Castro has pushed for economic equality and, as mayor of San Antonio, showed an ability to get along with Republicans and conservative-leaning business communities, according to Trinity University political science professor David Crockett.
The city has blossomed into an extremely desirable place to live, with a low cost of living and a healthy economy. Jobs in tech and cybersecurity have made San Antonio “the nation’s second-fastest-growing population of millennials,” according to The New York Times. San Antonio’s wage growth has surpassed the national average and housing is 13 percent cheaper than the national average, according to the newspaper.
On the campaign trail, Castro has attempted to put his liberal economic ideas into action. Like a number of Democratic candidates, Castro has said his campaign will not accept donations from corporate PACs. He has also pledged to pay interns $15 an hour and support a staff union.
Castro began his January campaign-launch speech by noting that his grandmother emigrated from Coahuila, Mexico, to Eagle Pass, Texas, when she was a child. “Yeah, we have to have border security,” he said, “but there’s a smart and a humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging babies is a smart or a good or a right way to do it. We say no to building a wall and yes to building community.”
Three months later, he revealed a detailed immigration platform. His People First Immigration Policy reverses Trump’s travel ban and provides a pathway to citizenship for people in the country unlawfully.
The proposal also calls to decriminalize illegal border crossings, which would be done by repealing a law that makes it a criminal, not civil, offense to illegally enter the U.S. The provision was a key factor in the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” approach, according to the Texas Tribune.
How Women Are Treated in the U.S.
Castro, a Roman Catholic, supports legal abortion access. He opposed a Texas law to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy that limited facilities and access to abortions. In January, he tweeted, “We can protect a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body because for women, access to reproductive healthcare is an economic issue.”
Castro is a longtime gun control advocate and has pushed for renewing the assault weapons ban. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, he said, “There is a feeling that the Second Amendment is there in the Constitution, folks will have the right to bear arms. At the same time, like every other freedom, there are reasonable limits, regulations to be placed on it.”
He wants to limit high-capacity magazines and require background checks at gun shows.
In January, Castro announced his support for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ idea to increase tax rates for the top earners in the U.S. “Oh, I can support folks at the top paying their fair share,” Castro said on ABC’s This Week.
“There was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent,” Castro said. “Even during Reagan’s era in the 1980s, it was around 50 percent.”
He also said taxes should support programs like Medicare-for-all and suggested raising the corporate tax rate to ensure companies “pay their fair share.”
As mayor of San Antonio, Castro supported NAFTA and expanding the trade deal. On C-Span, Castro said that he believes it should be renegotiated to strengthen worker and environmental protections.
In an appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press in 2018, Castro said “many folks recognize that it was time for us to pull out of Syria.” However, he added, “once you’re there, you have to make sure that you have a plan for your operations there and, also, for your withdrawal. So I’m not a big fan of the commitments America has made, over these last 15 years, whether it was the Iraq War or this commitment. However, I do believe, and I agree with folks that say, that both for our own sake, for the sake of our troops, for the sake of our allies, once you’re there, you have to actually have a solid plan for how you’re going to withdraw. And what we saw this week is not the way that it should be done by a president.”
Income and Wealth Distribution
Castro supports a higher minimum wage. In January, he tweeted, “We can raise the minimum wage so people don’t have to work two or three jobs to support a family.”
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation
Castro told The Washington Post that he was, “pleased that there was an opportunity for a process to try to get to the bottom of what happened,” but that he, “disagreed with the outcome of that process because I believed Dr. Ford and her testimony. So I think that those senators that voted to support him made a mistake. I did not support him. I believe her claim. But there was a process.”
Castro’s comments were made in February, after he was asked about the account of Vanessa Tyson, one of two women who accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. He told Post reporters, “I had an opportunity yesterday to read through Dr. Tyson’s statement. I believe her claim. I know that… Fairfax has denied it. My hope is that there’s some process to get to the bottom of that.”
And one more thing…
In 2016, Castro was on the shortlist for Clinton’s pick of her vice presidential running mate. When she named Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate, Castro voiced his approval of the choice in a tweet, writing, “#Clinton/Kaine! A winning ticket for America. #ImWithThem.”
He also has a twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was just recently mulling a run for the U.S. Senate against John Cornyn. Their 78-year-old retired math teacher father, Jesse Guzman, told the San Antonio Express News that his sons are “really something.”