will be labeled as 'rising Hispanic political superstar'
The Democratic Party’s selection of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as the keynote speaker for September’s convention adds jet fuel to the already lofty political aspirations of a man who has often been labeled as the most promising Hispanic politician in America today.
Castro, 37, is in his second term as mayor of the nation’s seventh largest city, a city which in many ways demographically mirrors the future of America. Castro has helped guide the transformation of San Antonio from a sleepy provincial community with it’s roots in tourism and the military into a city where biomedicine is now the largest employer, a city which is the center of the fast growing and increasing vital cyber security industry, a city with a young, vibrant majority-Hispanic population and an economy which has been named by several analysts as among the healthiest in the country.
“The mayor certainly reflects what’s going on not just in Texas but across the country with the demographic changes,” said San Antonio attorney Joe Krier, an active Republican who worked closely with Castro as the former President of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. “Mayor Castro is seen by many as a rising young star in the Democratic Party.”
As the son of a single mom who grew up in San Antonio’s sprawling west side barrio, Castro learned politics early from his mother. Rosie Castro, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, was a leader of the fiery La Raza Unida political movement in the 1970s, and was an unsuccessful candidate for San Antonio City Council at a time when Hispanics were essentially shut out of the city’s governing process.
Like many first generation Mexican Americans, Rosie Castro saw education as the key to the American dream, and she saw to it that her twin sons Julian (who steadfastly insists that his name be pronounced the Latino ‘hoo-lee-AHN,’ and not the Anglo ‘JOO-lee-un’) and Joaquin received educations at Stanford University and Harvard Law School.
Joaquin, who is a member of the Texas Legislature, is positioned to win a seat in Congress in November.
Castro says he’ll discuss in his keynote address how government ‘investments’ helped him achieve the American dream.
“The choice that we have in this election is whether we will continue to make the right investments, that the American dream opportunity remains available to everyone,” he told 1200 WOAI news. “I’ll talk about how we will continue to have an opportunity to extend that promise to all Americans in the future.”
Castro has been picked to deliver the keynote address at a time when the Democrats need to appeal to Hispanic voters in key swing states like Florida and Colorado, many of whom share many aspects of his life story.
People in San Antonio who have worked with Castro say he is well positioned to spell out the future of the Democratic Party.
“Mayor Castro is an up and coming national figure,” said Nelson Wolff, a former San Antonio mayor and a lifelong Democratic Party activist. “It’s nice to have a national star in our city.”
Ricardo Romo, the President of the University of Texas at San Antonio, points out that Castro believes that education remains the secret to American success, pointing out that one of the centerpieces of his administration as mayor has been a call for a city sales tax increase to fund early childhood education programs.
“I know in his message he will be talking about education,” Romo said. “He’s a true believer. He has a wonderful message about education, and it is not just about how the schools must do a better job. It’s about how all of us have to be responsible, that the parents have to take more responsibility as well.”
Castro also realizes that he is not the first young San Antonio mayor who has been tagged for greatness. 31 years ago, Henry Cisneros was elected as the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city. He was on Walter Mondale’s short list of vice presidential choices in 1984, and too appeared on his way to national political prominence. But Cisneros saw his political hopes crash amid first revelations of an affair with a staffer, then an FBI investigation into whether he lied about payments he made to the woman, and culminating with an indictment for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Cisneros pled guilty to a misdemeanor of lying to the FBI, and was pardoned by President Clinton, but his political career was effectively over.
Castro is well aware of the pitfalls that await anybody in politics who is labeled as successful beyond his years. He has already been the youngest councilman in a major American city, and now is the youngest mayor of a major American city.
“I am humbled by this opportunity,” he said today, joking “of course there’s no pressure, after what happened to President Obama following his address in 2004.” Obama’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 began the rise of the then State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate to the White House four years later.
Krier says while Castro’s future seems limitless, he has to realize that he will be judged on his accomplishments, not on his promise.
“Everything depends on how his record as mayor ends, and there are a number of years to go on that, and then we’ll see what opportunities open for him.”