Wednesday Q+A with Julián Castro

The former San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary talks about his new PAC … and his 2020 decision process.

Julian Castro
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Feb. 13, 2018, 8 p.m.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is blunter than most when talking about 2020, having recently expressed interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for president. And with an upcoming trip to New Hampshire, he expects even more chatter. But the former San Antonio mayor isn’t sweating the speculation, telling Hanna Trudo, “Folks should be up front with people.”

You’re heading over to New Hampshire …
I got an invitation from the New Hampshire Young Democrats to go out and speak at their annual dinner, and it fits with what I’m working on, which is trying to support young candidates for office and encourage young people to participate, especially in 2018. Looking forward to that. Of course, folks are asking questions about 2020…

Are they wrong to ask?

No, no. I’ve been straightforward that I’m thinking about that. But I won’t make a decision on it until after November and before the end of the year.

You’re not as coy about your interest in 2020 as other Democrats. Why not?

Folks should be up front with people. I haven’t made the decision as to whether I will run, but I am looking at it. And I’m going take the next few months to figure that out.

What does looking at it mean?

I’m getting out to different parts of the country and listening to what folks are saying, getting a sense of what voters are thinking, what’s important to them these days. Most of that is going to happen between now and the end of the year. There’s no campaign apparatus. We haven’t hired anybody. None of that has happened.

Has anybody approached you to run?

Like others, I hear that.

What about from your old boss [former President Obama]?

I haven’t connected with him on that.

People sometimes brush off 2020 stuff by saying, “Oh, it’s three years from the election.” But it’s only a year from the end of the midterms.

Yeah, whether I end up running or not, I recognize that a year from now we’ll be in the beginning of all the announcements. People think of 2020—it’s really not 2020. It starts a lot sooner than that.

You recently launched a PAC, Opportunity First. What have you done so far?

We’re at the beginning of fundraising for the PAC. We launched it right after the New Year, so we’re setting up fundraisers in different cities. We have a digital-media team. … We have a guy … that’s in charge of fundraising. And then we have our folks in charge of compliance. … As it grows during the year, we’ll look at staffing it up.

Are you looking for people with technical digital skills, political experience, social media?

We have folks that are working on the social-media component and emailing. … And we have volunteers right now that are helping to sift through different races that have young progressive candidates in them and then put those together so that I can make decisions on who I’m going to support. But in terms of staffing up, yeah, we’ll look for folks with some good political experience.

Are you going to pop up in Iowa?

I anticipate getting out to a number of states. I haven’t scheduled anything in Iowa, but I’m sure that I’ll be campaigning out in different states, including Florida and California, here in Texas.

Talks about the “Dreamers” are dominating Democratic politics. How do you see yourself fitting into that debate?

I’ve done a couple of media calls with different organizations that support a clean Dream Act. I’ve been active on social media about the need for a legislative solution for the Dreamers. I anticipate in the coming weeks to be active on the issue as well.

Were Senate Democrats right to push to shut down the government over this?

Yeah. They need to fight for individuals who ought to be able to stay in the United States.

You’re also writing a memoir and are a fellow at the University of Texas-Austin. With all of that, do you consider “Opportunity First” to be your full-time job?

Right now the PAC itself is not 60 hours a week. But as we get through these primaries and go into the general election, my time out there on the campaign trail for great candidates and my investment of time on the PAC’s activists will increase. We’re not quite there yet, but I see it ramping up. We’ll be having events or fundraisers for the PAC in several cities here in Texas, in D.C., likely in California.

Why California?

Like New York and a few other places, California is both progressive and also, of course, always a good source of resources.

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