I was still in high school when I saw Julián Castro speak at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Castro started his keynote speech by telling his family’s success story, how his grandmother worked hard to give his mother a better life, and how his mother worked hard to give him and his twin brother Joaquin an even better one. He deftly wove his own story with policy matters, discussing the need to provide that kind of opportunity to everyone. He even took some humorous jabs at Mitt Romney and the GOP.
At the time, Castro was relatively unknown in national politics, but the then-mayor of San Antonio left a big impression on me, so much so that I still remember it almost nine years later. His idealism and charisma shone through in that speech, and if Castro can bring even half of that in 2022 then he could be a serious challenge to Greg Abbott.
Castro isn’t lacking in terms of qualifications. At the age of 26, he became the youngest San Antonio city council member ever . In 2009, he became the youngest mayor of a top-50 American city. During his tenure, San Antonio was recognized as a model for economic growth and urban revitalization as the rest of the nation grappled with the Great Recession. Castro served in the Obama administration as HUD Secretary from 2014 to 2017, overseeing a department with a $46 billion budget.
Julián Castro’s experience with domestic policy is also why he should be the Castro twin that runs for governor. His brother, Joaquin, is also a talented politician but currently serves as an important voice within the Democratic Party on foreign affairs and national security. Joaquin’s foreign policy chops are needed in DC, and a 2024 bid for the Senate would be a better use of his talents and experience.
Julián Castro is also a candidate who could win. As mentioned above, he certainly doesn’t lack in the charisma department and if Democrats are to win in Texas they will need a candidate who can inspire people. Winning back voters in the heavily-Latino Rio Grande Valley, where Democrats underperformed in 2020, will also be key to a 2022 victory. 2020 was a sign that Democrats have taken Latino voters for granted for too long, and fielding candidates who are from the communities we seek to win over will be an important step going forward.
Perhaps most importantly, Castro has the name recognition. As a former mayor, cabinet secretary, and presidential candidate, he’s a well-known figure in both Texas and national politics. He’s arguably better-known than any other potential Democratic candidates besides Beto O’Rourke and Matthew McCoughnahey. The former may want to focus on a 2024 Senate rematch and the latter might not even run as a Democrat.
Some might point to Castro’s failed presidential campaign as an argument against his electability. But there’s a few things to consider. First, past failures are not necessarily an indication that a candidate won’t be successful in the future, let’s remember that our president, Joe Biden, failed in his first two runs for the presidency. Second, the 2020 Democratic primaries had an incredibly competitive field, far more so than what Castro would likely face were he to run for governor. And the primary concern of Democrats in 2020 was beating Donald Trump, causing them to gravitate toward a “safe” choice in Biden. In Texas, where Democrats haven’t won a state-wide race in decades, there isn’t really a safe candidate. Finally turning Texas blue cannot be done without bold moves.
For those concerned that Castro shifted too far to the left in 2020 to be electable in Texas, keep in mind that two years is a long time in American politics. Politicians have reinvented themselves in less time than that (remember when Ted Cruz was Trump’s enemy?). And it may not even be necessary or wise for Castro to shift to rebrand himself as a centrist, any Democrat no matter how moderate will be labelled a radical socialist by the GOP. Perhaps a candidate who is unafraid to take progressive positions is what Texas needs.
In politics, it’s often tough to balance qualifications with electability. A wonky candidate might not be very appealing to voters and vice versa. This is an especially tough balance in Texas; running a state with an economy the size of Russia isn’t easy but neither is inspiring enough voters in a state with a population the size of Australia’s. But Castro could be the candidate that can do both. He has the name recognition, charisma, and inspiring story to be a political force in 2022, but also the experience to be a successful governor should he win.
Castro hasn’t confirmed that he’ll run for governor, but he hasn’t ruled it out either. Regardless of whether he will, there’s a strong case that he should.