‘I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not…’
(Liberty Headlines) Former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, on Thursday ended his campaign that had swung hard at rivals on the debate stage but never found a foothold to climb from the back of the pack.
Castro made his announcement in an online video, crediting his campaign with helping steer the national dialogue.
“We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people and given a voice to those who are often forgotten,” he said.
It’s with profound gratitude to all of our supporters that I suspend my campaign for president today.
I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished together. I’m going to keep fighting for an America where everyone counts—I hope you’ll join me in that fight. pic.twitter.com/jXQLJa3AdC.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 2, 2020
In a race that has seen Democrats take a hard left-turn on many economic and social issues, Castro—the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, who later joined Obama’s cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development—pushed the field on immigration with what amounted to a call for open borders and free welfare entitlements for immigrants, regardless of legal status.
Castro had once been pegged as a rising Democratic star after being elected as mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city at age 34, and he was on the short list for Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016.
But after launching his presidential campaign in January, he dropped out due to his failure to garner enough support in the polls or donations to make recent Democratic debates.
“[W]ith only a month until the Iowa caucuses, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time,” Castro said in his Twitter video.
Castro had stalled for most of his campaign around 1% in polls and never came close to raising money like his better-known rivals.
He had not yet released his end-of-year fundraising totals, but by October he had raised less than $8 million total.
As Castro exited the field, primary rival Bernie Sanders announced on Thursday that he brought in more than $34.5 million in the previous three months alone.
Castro’s exit reflects the increasing lack of color in a Democratic field that began as one of the most diverse in history—the fact of which Democrats, despite having only themselves to blame for the latent racism within their own ranks, are eager to belabor.
Between Sen. Kamala Harris of California dropping out and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey also lagging, the sixth and final Democratic debate of 2019 had no black or Latino candidates on stage.
None have been able to tap into the natural enthusiasm Democratic voters felt in 2008 and 2012 when electing the country’s first black president, Barack Obama.
Harris, a fierce critic of President Donald Trump in the Senate, squandered early optimism and support by a lackluster and indecisive campaign, unsure where she stood on many of the signature issues.
By contrast, Castro has been sure-footedly among those farthest to the left, a position shared by frontrunners like Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont; and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Warren—herself a former minority-identifying candidate—was among the first in the field to react to Castro’s departure on Twitter.
Thank you @JulianCastro for being a powerful voice, for proposing bold and progressive plans, and for using your campaign to help people who need it now. You made this race stronger—and you will continue to be a leader in our party and our country for many years to come. pic.twitter.com/SWlsDC9HcS
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 2, 2020
Regardless, Castro expressed disappointment and concern about the growing lack of diversity, hinting that his Latino cultural identity (although technically counted as “Caucasian” in racial demographics) was a handicap rather than a crutch in the nominating contest.
In Iowa, for instance, he ran an ad arguing that the state should no longer go first in Democrats’ nominating process because it doesn’t reflect the diversity of the Democratic Party.
Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, said he recognized the meaning of his candidacy in the face of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and hardline policies intended to curb the escalation of an illegal immigration crisis on the U.S.–Mexico border.
Although a reliable demagogue for his own hardline leftist views—prone to knee-jerk, emotional criticisms and, especially, race-baiting—Castro labored not to be pigeonholed as a single-issue candidate whose only purpose in the race was to represent an extremist stance on immigration that would force the more mainstream candidates to re-calibrate.
He made the attention-getting choice of Puerto Rico as his first campaign stop, recited the names of black victims killed in high-profile police shootings and was the first in the field to call for Trump’s impeachment.
But his sagging poll numbers never budged. Early on, the 45-year-old Castro was often eclipsed by another Texan in the race who dropped out this fall, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and another young former mayor, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.
His campaign and supporters, meanwhile, grumbled that he didn’t get due credit for taking out-front positions while others struck more moderate stances.
Trying to show he could go toe-to-toe with Trump, Castro swung for big moments on debate stages, and he flirted with a much-needed breakout in June after confronting O’Rourke over not supporting decriminalization of illegal border crossings.
But turning his sights on Biden on a later stage brought swift backlash. During the September debate in Houston, Castro appeared to touch on concerns about the age of the then-76-year-old former vice president and added a parting shot at him.
“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not,” Castro said.
Castro denied taking a personal dig at Biden as others in the field condemned the exchange. Three days later, Castro lost one of his three backers in Congress, Rep. Vicente González of Texas, who switched his endorsement to Biden.
Castro had warned supporters in a fundraising appeal that failing to make the November debate stage would spell the end of his campaign. He needed to hit at least 3% polling in four early state or national polls but didn’t get even one.
What is next for Castro is unclear. Back home in Texas, Democrats had long viewed Castro as their biggest star in waiting, and some have urged him to run for governor as the state trends more diverse and liberal.
In the video announcing his exit, Castro concludes with “¡Ganaremos un día!”—which translates to “We will win one day!”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press