Democrat Julián Castro Takes Step Toward 2020 Presidential Run

(Bloomberg) -- Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio and Obama administration cabinet official, announced Wednesday he’s setting up an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential run, the first step toward joining what’s shaping up to be a large and diverse Democratic field.

"Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness. We’re ready to keep our promises. And we’re not going to wait, we’re going to work," Castro said in a video statement. "I’m exploring a candidacy for president of the United States in 2020."

An exploratory committee allows Castro to raise and spend a limited amount of money to test whether he can generate support for an official bid for the Democratic nomination through the months-long slog of caucuses and primaries set to get underway in February 2020. He said he’ll announce his intentions on Jan. 12 in Texas.

Castro has been interviewing potential staff in early states and reaching out to supporters, potential surrogates and donors across the country, according to a person who’s familiar with his plans and wasn’t authorized to discuss them on the record. The person said Castro’s made up his mind that he will run.

As one of the youngest candidates in the race and likely the only Latino, Castro plans to highlight his modest background and make a generational pitch for the White House.

Castro, 44, served as mayor of San Antonio from 2009 until 2014 before joining President Barack Obama’s administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017. While he may be the most serious Latino candidate for the Democratic Party, it won’t be easy for Castro to stand out in a wide field of more than a dozen contenders that could include senators, governors, mayors and wealthy entrepreneurs.

Most of the would-be candidates are likely to announce their plans and make similar moves over the next few months.

Castro, a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, may not even be the only Texas Democrat in the race: Representative Beto O’Rourke is also considering a run — and enjoying a burst of liberal enthusiasm after he narrowly lost a Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz in the reliably conservative state.

In his announcement video, Castro sought to strike an uplifting note as he spoke about his childhood and highlighted issues for young people ("you should be able to graduate without a mountain of debt") and seniors ("a life of dignity"), while also calling for wider access to health care and supporting immigrants.

"We can make a promise to people with black and brown skin, people who wear turbans and hijabs and yarmulkes, that you can walk down the street in your community, in any community, and feel safe," he said. To immigrants like his family, he added: "We have room for you. We welcome you."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.