Castro adopted an old-school political identity as a legislator, learning how to split the difference between dealmaker and partisan. "Sometimes he fights, sometimes he negotiates," state House Democratic leader Jessica Farrar said. "Then he might go back to the fight. I think he knows what battles to pick, and he knows what he can win and what he can walk away from."
That has earned him criticism from both sides at times. Last year, when it looked like he might end up challenging liberal Rep. Lloyd Doggett for a congressional seat, some Doggett supporters charged that Castro was too willing to compromise. For the most part, though, Castro draws support across the Democratic spectrum. "I think that he is a good Democrat, whatever label you want to put on him," Farrar said. "The most important part is he represented his district, he was a good fit there."
Castro comes pre-equipped with other political tools, too. "He's a really prolific fundraiser. Among our top donors among our caucus members," said Farrar. As Obama's July stop there demonstrates, San Antonio can be lucrative fundraising territory for Democrats, and having the family go national tonight will only help Castro in an area that could benefit him in the House down the line. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already named him a "Majority Maker," a candidate responsible for fundraising and donating on behalf of candidates in tougher races. Colleagues remember and reward such assistance; it helped Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy climb to top Republican leadership posts within a few terms of joining the House.
Castro is under no illusions about what the transition from state legislative leader to House freshman will entail. "I come in under no illusions," Castro said. "I know I'll be in the broom closet for a while as a freshman and sophomore and so on." Castro's modest initial goal in Congress sounds much like his goal for the Democratic convention: "I'm going to make friendships and learn from the people there, and get better as a legislator."
Talk of Joaquin's political potential has taken a backseat while reporters ponder Julian Castro's future after his convention keynote. But Joaquin could become an important figure among House Democrats, who have an aging leadership and a dearth of young stars. "The age, the qualifications, the relationships in Texas, the fact that two of them cover more ground," Farrar said. "The world's his oyster."