Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro told Mother Jones last week that he’s still preaching patience—even though he’s recently been polling at around 1 percent in a crowded field.
“There are 21 candidates in the race, and I believe that at different points people are going to be up and down,” Castro said. “And my goal is not to be up for a month or two. My goal is to steadily build this campaign so that we’re strong when it counts—which is in the winter and spring of 2020.”
Castro spoke with Mother Jones for an exclusive interview at one of his favorite restaurants in San Antonio last Thursday. He was upbeat and on message, emphasizing that the best was yet to come and hammering home his top policy priorities: pushing universal health care with Medicare for All, addressing climate change while investing in sustainability, and putting forward “bold immigration legislation” that would give millions of undocumented immigrants a legal path to citizenship.
Listen to immigration reporter Fernanda Echavarri interview presidential hopeful Julian Castro in this week’s episode of the Mother Jones Podcast:
He also called on Congress to move forward with impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. “Robert Mueller in his report cited 10 different instances where this president obstructed justice or tried to obstruct justice,” Castro said. “It’s a mess, and it’s a mess because this president is hiding something—and he doesn’t want the American people to understand the scope, I believe, of his misdeeds.”
He said not impeaching the president would give the American people the perception that Trump’s “got a clean bill of health, when that’s so far from the truth.”
“Probably the worst thing he’s done is undermine our democracy with so many lies, outright lies,” Castro said. “This president has undermined our democracy in ways that I don’t even think we’ve completely accounted for yet but that we’re gonna be living with, I believe, for well past his term.”
Castro, who announced his run for the Democratic nomination on January 12, says he spoke to former President Barack Obama the day before. “He gave me some great advice, but his main point was just be yourself,” he said. “More than anything else, people want to know who you are, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.”
Castro served in Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017. Before that, he was the mayor of San Antonio, a blue city in a red state, which he says is helpful in today’s divisive political environment.
“What people are looking for in part this year is somebody that can talk to folks that don’t agree with him, somebody that can try and bring people together around progressive values and that’s basically what I had to do as mayor of San Antonio,” Castro says. “I had to go knock on the doors of Republicans and conservatives and a lot of them didn’t vote for me, but some of them did, and even though we disagreed I found ways to work with them to do progressive things.”
Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, grew up in San Antonio, a city he still calls home. His mother, an activist involved with the Chicano movement of the late 1960s and early ’70s, was instrumental in getting him and his twin brother, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, into politics. He’s grateful that his mother gets to see him run for president “because in some ways it’s fulfilling the hope that my grandmother had for her family, and that my mother had—not only for her family, but for improving the system.”
That optimism is pushing him forward in the face of low poll numbers, which he insisted aren’t discouraging his campaign.
“I’ve said that I’m not a frontrunner right now, but I wasn’t born a frontrunner—I didn’t grow up here on the west side of San Antonio as a frontrunner,” Castro told me. “And there are a lot of people out there that are not frontrunners. They don’t feel like frontrunners right now.”