SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Jan 12, 2019, 2:21 PM ET

Julian Castro, former Obama official, launches 2020 presidential bid: 'Today we're falling backwards'

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Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and housing chief during the Obama administration, formally announced on Saturday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

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“Today we’re falling backwards instead of moving forward. And the opportunities that made America, America are reaching fewer and fewer people,” he said, flanked by his wife Erica and children Carina and Cristian in San Antonio's Plaza Guadalupe, among a crowd of a couple hundred people. “That’s why we are here today. Because we’re going to make sure that the promise of America is there for everyone.”

PHOTO: Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian n Castro announces his candidacy for President of the United States in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 12, 2019.Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images
Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian n Castro announces his candidacy for President of the United States in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 12, 2019.

Introduced by his mother, local activist Rosie Castro, he said the country was going through a crisis of leadership under President Donald Trump.

“I’m running for president because it’s time for new leadership, because it’s time for new energy and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities I’ve had are available for every American,” he said. Most of his speech highlighted his family’s immigrant history and San Antonio roots — his grandmother moved to the United States in the 1920s and his mother is a longtime community activist.

Castro described the American Dream as not being a "sprint or a marathon, but a relay. My story wouldn't be possible without the strong women who came before me and passed me the baton. Because of their hard work, I have the opportunity to stand here today."

PHOTO: Former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro waves as he arrives with his family to an event where he announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Jan. 12, 2019, in San Antonio.Eric Gay/AP
Former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro waves as he arrives with his family to an event where he announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Jan. 12, 2019, in San Antonio.

Castro is the first Mexican-American and first San Antonio native to seek the White House.

“My family’s story wouldn’t be possible without a country that challenged itself to live up to the promise of America. That was the point of the American Dream: It wasn’t supposed to be just a dream. America was the place where dreams could become real, but right now, the relay isn’t working,” he said.

Asking for an America that is the “smartest, healthiest and fairest” nation on Earth, Castro touted his support for universal health care; pre-kindergarten for all, based on a program he sponsored as mayor of San Antonio; affordable higher education, criminal justice and immigration reform, and more attention on combating climate change. He said that if he is elected, his first executive action would be to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Accord that President Trump abandoned last year.

Castro had harsh words for president Trump as the nation focuses on the ongoing government shutdown over Trump's insistence to build a border wall.

“Yes, we must have border security, but there is a smart and humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging children is keeping us safe," he said, telling the crowd his grandmother died regretting that she wasn't able to say goodbye to her mother when she left Mexico for the U.S. in the 1920s.

PHOTO: Supporters cheer for former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at an event where he announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in San Antonio, Jan. 12, 2019.Eric Gay/AP
Supporters cheer for former San Antonio Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro at an event where he announced his decision to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, in San Antonio, Jan. 12, 2019.

Acknowledging that his run for the White House was a long shot, as a growing number of high-profile Democrats are expected to enter the race, Castro referred to his hometown of San Antonio.

“There are no frontrunners born here, but I've always believed that with big dreams and hard work, anything is possible,” he said.

Introducing him, his mother told the crowd Castro is "not one to be underestimated."

In response to Castro's announcement, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee called Castro one of the “biggest lightweights to ever run for president,” saying he was a weak mayor and questioning his tenure as Housing and Urban Development secretary.

“This is obviously just another desperate attempt to become someone else’s running mate,” said RNC spokesman Mike Ahrens in a statement.

Castro faces a growing and diverse primary field as more Democrats jump in on the race. Just hours before Castro’s announcement, Sen. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii teased a presidential run on Twitter and launched a campaign website. She told CNN in an interview set to air Saturday night that a formal announcement is imminent.

On the eve of the new year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, formed an exploratory committee ahead of a potential run. She headlined several events in Iowa last week and is in New Hampshire this weekend — hitting two early primary states that are seen as barometers for presidential nominees.

These announcements come as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — the 2016 primary challenger to Hillary Clinton — mull potential runs and tower Castro in name recognition.

But it’s most likely the possibility of another Texan running for president, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, that could overshadow Castro’s prospects. O’Rourke catapulted to the national stage during his longshot campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year. He may have lost by 3 points, but his road trip campaign earned him comparisons to a young Barack Obama.

O’Rourke is set to embark on a solo road trip around the country later this month – and is making a stop in New York City Feb. 5 for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. A decision on a run could come as soon as next month.

Castro’s next stop and his first trip as a presidential candidate is to Puerto Rico. He’ll be in New Hampshire this Wednesday at the traditional “Politics and Eggs” breakfast, which has become an obligatory stop for presidential candidates.

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  • Hank R

    A US President named Castro. How ironic.

  • Star Patriot™

    Donors, save your money. This is not the one. The much-touted tie to Obama is a potential political nightmare.

  • BD70

    Trump says Biden is weak and Obama pulled him off the trash heap. Look who is talking and where the heck did he get Pence from?

  • pprty

    Actually, I think a cockroach could run against Trump in 2020 and win.

  • subtext9

    With this one speech Julian Castro has captured my imagination. I am imagining the Dems losing another presidential election. Still, with two more years of Trump antics to go (in or out of office), voters may accept any candidate for president (other than the most recent one) offered by the opposing party.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    I'll vote for any of these candidates that make it to the final round against Trump.

  • Foxrocks

    Who?

  • badhairpiece

    Has Trump commented on his birth certificate yet?

  • Eric Janssen

    Even as far back as the '16 midterms, one MA Republican candidate was all set to lead the charge against Elizabeth Warren as Ruthless World-Domination Female Candidate II.
    "Another female Massachusetts politician is planning to ignore her voters and run away to her big presidential campaign!"

    You KNOW the card that the GOP is going to try and play against Warren, and it won't take you too long to guess the "Massachusetts" label they'll try and paste on her--
    As for other '20 Democratic candidates just now starting to enter the field, the Republicans aren't quite prepared yet--Just like they had the wrong horse in the '08 election, and spent the entire Obama campaign strategized to fight Evil Hillary.
    (And all John McCain had left to fight Obama's lead was "Geez, you love him so much, why don'tcha marry him??")

  • End of Life Ritual

    It’s going to be pretty rough for him to get any name recognition.

  • BluntNotPC

    Not even 3 full months and the Democratic field is already crowded. Bloomberg, Cumo, and de Blasio haven't even thrown their hats in the 3 ring circus that will be the Dem primary season... and rumor has it that HRC's handler thinks she is running (still)

  • Retired and Happy

    I like what I have seen from this guy. Ran a city and also a major government agency. Not a flame thrower with rhetoric and promises he knows we can't keep. Will wait to see more as it's early and many others would jump in.

  • Thao D

    Julian Castro know nothing the world and economy.He know how to do the housing.The democrats has many people that want to run for president.No matter what US can go down.This is the mess

  • Army Brat

    Well fact is whomever gets the Democratic nomination will be President. This past November was nothing but a warning shot for Republicans that will lose all branches of government in 2020

  • kritikosman

    May as well.

  • thelynx

    President Castro. Just had a flashback.

  • mik8888

    I don't really know about the guy at all, and certainly didn't know he was in Obama's cabinet...sooo I'll have to wait and see what he has to say...

  • Jamie Vetter

    No one can beat Trump. He controls the media every single minute of every single day. Hitler could only dream of having this much power.

  • William

    It already appears that will be plenty of Democrat presidential candidates in 2020...already 2 from Texas....neither have any chance

  • BD70

    I think Castro and his identical twin brother Castro should cook up a scheme to bend Trumps mind (whats left of it). Trump won't know who he is dealing with.

  • DestinysNow

    It will be good to have another guy in the race. Castro would be an interesting choice for VP, and could really help in FL, NV, AZ, and possibly make TX more interesting. Dems need to run somewhat conventional candidates with some background in govt. People have regrets about the Trump experiment, but I don't think they want another experimental candidate. Unfortunately, I think that also goes for a female DEM nominee for a second consecutive time. We need a more normal ticket for swing voters to compare to the trump experiment.

  • Smedley

    The GOP response was that he doesn't have enough experience to be President, oh the irony.

  • JDC1

    It will be interesting to see what democrats get the nomination the next 2-3 general elections. The rise of the tea party in 2010 silenced moderate republicans, and gave us Trump. Now the progressive movement has literally copied the tea party’s handbook, and is trying to silence moderate democrats. We may be witnessing the fall of the republic and don’t really grasp the totality of it.

  • Army Brat

    Republican Steve King is already erecting a gallows at the capital for any person of color daring to infiltrate his white country

  • GarfieldRocks

    I love it. Wouldn't that be a hoot? Poetic justice.

  • Hammond Ecks

    He’ll never make it because the GOP propagandists will convince their sheep that he's Fidel's son.

  • Army Brat

    Another great choice in what will be a large field of intelligent, HONEST, candidates with integrity . The country will never elect another fascist like figure again after the nightmarish two years of trump

    There’s s reason Dems flipped 40 seats and it’s name is Trump

  • Prophet With Honor

    Details. Policies and plans clearly stated. Without that I cannot call him the one.