Julian Castro was born in San Antonio, Texas, on September 16, 1974, along with his twin brother, Joaquin Castro. Their mother, Maria Castro, helped create the radical Chicano movement La Raza Unida (LRU) in 1970, and in ’71 she ran an unsuccessful campaign (on the LRU ticket) for the San Antonio City Council. She was a strong ideological influence on her sons, as evidenced by the fact that both boys were lauded as “modelos” (young people worthy of emulation) at an Activist Reunion which former LRU members held in December 1989.
In 1992 Julian Castro was admitted to Stanford University under the school’s racial preference program. “Joaquín and I got into Stanford because of affirmative action,” Julian told The New York Times years later. “I scored 1,210 on my SATs, which was lower than the median matriculating student. But I did fine in college and in law school. So did Joaquín. I’m a strong supporter of affirmative action because I’ve seen it work in my own life.”
After graduating from Stanford in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science, Castro attended Harvard Law School, where he joined a Hispanic campus organization called Alianza and served on the Law School Council before receiving his JD degree in 2000.
In 2001 Castro launched a political career by winning a seat on the San Antonio City Council. In 2005, he co-chaired the Mayor’s Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, which produced a ten-year plan designed to end chronic homelessness in San Antonio. This plan called for massive public expenditures to fund: (a) the creation of 800 new permanent housing units for people with disabilities; (b) increased access to public restroom facilities; (c) increased enrollment in the food stamp program; and (d) the expansion of the San Antonio Food Bank’s storage facility.
In 2005 as well, Castro, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for the office of San Antonio mayor.
Although his mother was a Hispanic activist, Castro did not speak Spanish growing up. In light of the large number of Mexican-Americans residing in San Antonio, he began to worry that this would be a political liability and in 2009, he hired a Spanish-language tutor. That same year, Castro ran again for the office of San Antonio mayor and won. One of his first acts as mayor was to adorn the wall of his office with a 1971 La Raza Unida City Council campaign poster featuring an image of his mother. (Castro would subsequently win re-election as mayor in 2011 and 2013.)
On March 29, 2010 in San Antonio, Castro and his brother both attended a gala event commemorating Rev. Claude Black, a local Communist Party USA sympathizer who had died a few days earlier at the age of 93.
In July 2012, independent filmmaker Carlos Calbillo interviewed Castro at the 40th anniversary of the Texas La Raza Unida Party. “In my interview,” Calbillo subsequently wrote, Mayor Julian reveals that he,… because of the activism of his mother Rosie, considers himself to be a legacy of the Texas and National La Raza Unida Party movement.”
In July 2012 as well, President Barack Obama selected Castro to deliver the keynote address at the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. In his speech, Castro tried to emphasize his Mexican heritage by saying three times, “Que dios los bendiga” (Spanish for “God bless you”), and explaining that his grandmother used to say those words to him and his twin brother as they left for school each morning when they were children.
In March 2013, Castro and his brother both joined Jeremy Bird at the first grassroots meeting of Battleground Texas, an organization dedicated to transforming the traditionally Republican state of Texas into a permanent Democratic stronghold.
In 2014, President Obama appointed Castro as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a post he held until the end of Obama’s second term in January 2017. Guided by Castro’s belief that “the fact that you were arrested shouldn’t keep you from getting a job and it shouldn’t keep you from renting a home,” HUD in April 2016 issued an enforcement directive warning landlords that they could be punished for refusing to rent to prospective tenants with criminal histories. “Because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system,” said the directive, “criminal history-based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African-Americans and Hispanics … [and] are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification.”
In the 2016 election cycle, Castro was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton‘s presidential bid.
On January 12, 2019, Castro formally announced that he would enter the 2020 U.S. presidential race. The key planks of his platform included “Medicare-for-all” (government-run, single-payer healthcare), universal access to government-funded pre-K and higher education, and a so-called “Green New Deal” – i.e., massive public investments in “clean-energy” jobs and infrastructure aiming to end America’s reliance on fossil fuels. When asked how he would fund such initiatives, Castro said that wealthier individuals and corporations would be required to “pay their fair share” of taxes. “There was a time in this country,” he noted, “where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent.”
During a March 2019 appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Castro said, “I’ve long believed that this country should address slavery, the original sin of slavery, including by looking at reparations. If I’m president, then I’m going to appoint a commission other task force to determine the best way to do that…. If under the Constitution we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property?”
In September 2019, Castro reacted vocally after The New York Times printed an article about a newly published book about Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s 2018 Supreme Court nominee. The Times piece – written by the book’s authors, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly – noted that the book – titled The Education of Brett Kavanaugh – discussed allegations in which a woman named Deborah Ramirez, who had been a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh more than 30 years earlier, claimed that a drunken Kavanaugh had once exposed his penis to her during a campus party. The article further reported that another “former classmate,” Max Stier, claimed to have personally witnessed the incident in question. But the article never mentioned Stier’s deep ties to the Democratic Party – most notably, he had worked for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, while Kavanaugh was a member of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr’s investigative team which looked into Clinton’s misconduct in office. Nor did the article mention that Ramirez had refused to be interviewed about the alleged incident; that all three of the friends whom she had identified as witnesses steadfastly maintained that it never occurred; and that all three friends had stated that not even Ramirez herself could recall the incident.
Despite the paucity of evidence against Kavanaugh, Castro told MSNBC host Joy Reid: “[W]hat’s become clear is that — that he should be impeached. The House absolutely has the ability to impeach him.” When Reid asked Castro if he believed that Kavanaugh “is essentially a sexual predator or that he was at some point,” the congressman replied: “Yes, I believe — I believe that he engaged in the conduct that was described.”
Julian Castro’s brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Texas.
Further Reading: “Julian Castro” (Biography.com, Votesmart.org, Ballotpedia.org, Keywiki.org); “Julian Castro ‘Doesn’t Really Speak Spanish’” (Daily Caller, 9-5-2012); “Rent to Criminals — Or Else” (by Matthew Vadum, FrontPageMag.com, 4-7-2016); “Julian Castro Cites 90 Percent Tax on Rich in Defending Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tax Hikes” (Washington Examiner, 1-16-2019); “Julian Castro: America Should Address the Original Sin of Slavery Including Potential Reparations” (by Pam Key, 3-10-2019); “Rush Limbaugh: NYT Editors ‘Rubbing Their Hands Together’ in Glee over Kavanaugh Story” (Washington Times, 9-16-2019); “Kavanaugh’s Accuser Max Stier Is Former Clinton Lawyer, Obama Donor” (Breitbart.com, 9-17-2019); “Julian Castro Calls For Kavanaugh Impeachment” (Real Clear Politics, 9-15-2009).