The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Julián Castro makes early move toward a 2020 White House bid

Democrat Julián Castro talks about exploring the possibility of running for president in 2020 at his home in San Antonio on Tuesday.
Democrat Julián Castro talks about exploring the possibility of running for president in 2020 at his home in San Antonio on Tuesday. (Eric Gay/AP)

Julián Castro said Wednesday that he is forming a presidential exploratory committee, a move that positions him for a burst of attention ahead of other hopefuls in what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats seeking to topple President Trump in 2020.

Castro, 44, a former San Antonio mayor and former housing and urban development secretary under President Barack Obama, announced the move in a four-minute video distributed on social media. He also launched a new website to promote his expected candidacy.

“As a kid growing up on the west side of San Antonio, I never thought that I’d one day be making this announcement: . . . I’m exploring a candidacy for President of the United States in 2020 to renew the promise of this country for all,” Castro said on Twitter.

An exploratory committee is typically a formality before the launch of a presidential campaign. Castro says in his video that he plans an announcement in Texas on Jan. 12 about whether he will move forward with a White House bid.

In his video, Castro says “Americans are ready to climb out of the darkness,” and after talking about his background, he lists several priorities, including making college affordable, expanding health care and ensuring that senior citizens live with “dignity.”

Castro emerged on the national scene when he delivered a well-received keynote address at the 2012 Democratic convention.

He then was still the mayor of San Antonio and soon after was talked about as a prospective vice-presidential nominee in 2016, a reflection of the rising importance of Hispanic voters and the key role they play in the Democratic Party’s coalition.

His announcement Wednesday gives him a head start in a Democratic field without a clear front-runner. Several possible contenders have said they are looking at the race but have yet to take any formal steps toward running.

They include former vice president Joe Biden, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Tex.) and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).

Rep. John K. Delaney (D-Md.), meanwhile, has already announced a 2020 bid.

Castro will get an opportunity to discuss his ambitions in front of a national audience on Thursday when he is scheduled to appear as a guest on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

The Republican National Committee welcomed Castro to the race Wednesday by calling him a “lightweight.”

“There’s arguably no bigger lightweight in the 2020 field than Julian Castro,” RNC spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement. “His mayoral job was largely ceremonial, he was in totally over his head at HUD, and no, he doesn’t even know Spanish.”