As I pointed out six years ago, Julian Castro is an inoffensive box-checker of a politician, and we may be seeing a lot more of him.
Ready for Julián?
Practicing Spanish, taking advice from Bill Clinton, Castro builds his case to be Hillary’s running mate.
By EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE 01/22/16
On the job as Housing and Urban Development secretary, he’s been carefully working the levers in Washington, with coaching from Bill Clinton and a twin brother who’s a popular and up-and-coming congressman himself.
He’s plotted his rise carefully, studying and strategizing with a clear goal in sight. But if Clinton picks him to be her running mate, it’ll be more about perfectly fitting his party’s moment and the nearly non-existent Democratic bench than about his 18 months as a HUD secretary who hasn’t left a deep mark at his agency, the White House or the housing world.
Castro’s got a made-for-campaign commercials biography, and an undeniable savvy that’s helped him spin a job as a part-time mayor of San Antonio into an unusually successful 2012 Democratic convention keynote and then the answer to the second term Obama White House’s own search for more diversity in the Cabinet, without having to wait until he could win statewide in Texas.
Since he got to Washington in 2014, Castro’s invested in building relationships with key members of Congress, paying close attention to the people who have control of HUD budgets and who might make good political connections to have down the line. He’s used the allure of getting to hang out with a possible future vice president to make fans out of housing industry leaders who nonetheless have trouble citing anything specific they like about his work, streamlined a famously dysfunctional bureaucracy and walked the hallways to improve employee satisfaction so much that several HUD employees who rolled their eyes at his appointment now say he was a needed change.
Along the way, Castro’s inner circle of aides and advisers have come to see Clinton’s running mate decision as a pretty simple math problem: it’ll be a white man, a black man or a brown man, they figure.
And then they run it down from there: the white man’s Sen. Tim Kaine, and though he’s got a lot of good government experience and the geography that could help with Ohio and Pennsylvania on top of his own Virginia, they say that at 58 he’d be too old to provide a generational contrast to the 68-year old Clinton, and too white for a campaign being defined by immigration reform and Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump’s attacks on minorities. Yes, Kaine speaks Spanish—and fluently, from his days as a missionary in Honduras, as opposed to Castro, who like so many first-generation Americans, had parents who only spoke English with him—but they don’t think it’ll go over too well for Clinton to try explaining to Latinos that at least the white guy she picked over a Latino speaks their language.
If it’s a black man, they say, then it’s Deval Patrick or Cory Booker. Patrick’s out, the Castro circle figures, because Massachusetts doesn’t help Clinton and that Bain Capital job he took after leaving office is a killer. Booker’s possible, though maybe a New York-New Jersey ticket’s a bit much.
Castro declined comment on any of the gaming out. But ask the Castro circle if there’s any other Latino they can imagine Clinton picking and they stammer. Xavier Becerra, they say skeptically, their voices trailing off as they stretch a question mark out the last vowel in the California congressman’s name. And at 57, they figure, he’s also too old.
Castro’s a young-looking 41, a lower-level Cabinet secretary with a record that’s most distinguished for not having anything go wrong. He’s the former mayor of the seventh-largest city with a record that includes a big win in implementing universal pre-K, but the job is technically part-time and pays only $3,000 per year. (Most of the municipal government is run by an unelected city manager, though many San Antonians expect the mayor to act like they’re full-time.)
One interesting aspect is that the Castro twins, are as far as I can tell from searching out their long lost illegitimate father (a retired schoolteacher in San Antonio), are representative mestizo Mexican-Americans, which might (or might not) be important in a business where so many Hispanic celebrities are either almost all white or are significantly black, but are seldom notably mestizo.
Also, I’ve never seen an explanation of why Julian is the Anointed One rather than identical twin Joaquín. Perhaps a political consultant decided at some point that Joaquín’s name was too hard for Anglos to spell properly?