Former presidential candidate Julián Castro discusses pandemic’s effects on middle class, experience in politics at 2020 Texas Tribune Festival

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Photo Credit: Lauren Goodman | Daily Texan Staff

Julián Castro, former presidential candidate and United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, discussed how the country’s leadership should address inequality during the pandemic, what he learned in politics and the growing importance of the Latinx community at the 2020 Texas Tribune Festival.

Castro spoke with Alicia Menendez, the host of “American Voices” on MSNBC, in a conversation that aired virtually Tuesday morning.  

Castro said what stood out most to him when he traveled the country during his presidential campaign was the growing gap of inequality in the country.

“America does have a lot to be proud of in terms of the middle class that has been created over the generations,” Castro said. “We also have a lot of people who are getting further and further behind. And this pandemic has shown us that that group is actually getting larger, not smaller.”

Castro said one silver lining of the pandemic is that the nation has an opportunity to come together and rebuild even stronger than before.

“There was a time when it felt like we have leadership that really was striving to make sure that there was economic mobility, that where you started didn't define where you're going to end up,” Castro said. “We need to get back to that.”

 

Castro said as he gains experience in politics, he still looks at issues from the perspective of someone in local government, since he was the mayor of San Antonio from 2009-2014.

“As mayor, the nature of the job is that you're focused much more on the practicalities … ,” Castro said. “(It was) not until I got to (Housing and Urban Development) and then especially ran for president that people really got to see my view on a whole range of other issues.”

Castro said his vision on policies during his presidential campaign came about by using people across the country who better understand region-specific issues as a sounding board.

“When you're running for that office, you're dealing with everyday citizens that have questions,” Castro said. “Some of them are very detailed, some of them broad, many of them that (I was) familiar with (and) some that I wasn't … You get this sense of the scope of issues.” 

Castro said Latinx people are often stereotyped as being fluent in Spanish, Democratic and prioritizing immigration. Not all Latinx people are one-dimensional, and they may have different priorities when voting in November for the presidential election, Castro said.

“I just hope that in the years to come … that people are actually going to see the (Latinx) community in its fullness, or at least get a better understanding of how diverse it is,” Castro said.

Castro said the 2020 election cycle is different for Texas since its demographics have changed — Latinx and Asian American communities are growing, and there’s an influx of people moving into the state with moderate views. It will be a close race in Texas, Castro said. 

“I think that Biden can prevail,” Castro said. “(Democrats are) only nine seats away from taking back the Texas House … (Democrats) could have a watershed election night here in Texas.”