This article is published in partnership with the Texas Tribune.
Update, Jan. 2, 2020: Julián Castro has suspended his presidential campaign.
Julián Castro has never won an election for statewide or federal office. But he’s running for president.
“With big dreams and hard work, anything is possible in this county,” Castro said Saturday in San Antonio as he announced his run for the presidency.
Castro, a lawyer, served as mayor of San Antonio, the nation’s 7th most populous city, from 2009 to 2014.
From that perch, he angled for national prominence.
In 2012, Castro delivered the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address, prompting pundits to dub him the “Latino Barack Obama” — Obama himself delivered the Democratic National Convention keynote address in 2004. By 2014, Obama had tapped him as Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary.
Hillary Clinton considered Castro as her presidential running mate, but instead chose Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. Since leaving HUD in 2017, Castro’s profile has decreased, and he hasn’t received nearly the attention of prospective presidential candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., who remain in federal office.
Nevertheless, Castro, 44, formed an exploratory committee in December, declaring in a not-so-veiled shot at President Donald Trump that “Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness.”
Here’s more on Castro’s political and financial history:
- The U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded in 2016 that Castro had violated the federal Hatch Act by using his official government position as HUD secretary to advocate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Castro acknowledged the error and that proved penance enough for Obama, who declined to fire or otherwise penalize Castro.
- Castro says he’s “not going to take any PAC money” as a presidential candidate and is discouraging anyone from forming a super PAC to benefit his candidacy. But in August 2017, Castro formed a PAC, Opportunity First. From that point into late November, Castro’s PAC has raised nearly $500,000, almost exclusively from donors in Texas, California, Florida, New York, Washington, Maryland and Virginia. The PAC during that time spent nearly all that it’s raised, with most of the money going toward consulting fees, fundraising services and Castro’s travel. It has spread some money among several dozen other “young, progressive” federal– and state–level pols, including the campaigns of Reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas ($3,700); Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M. ($1,000); Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa ($1,000) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. ($500).
- Allred — a former National Football League linebacker — is a Castro protege from their time together at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Allred scored one of the most notable upsets of the 2018 election, defeating powerful Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, who had served in Congress since 1997. Allred’s campaign raised nearly $5.8 million — near the top among all Democratic candidates and significantly more than Sessions’ campaign — and Castro endorsed and fundraised for Allred.
- Over the years, Castro’s personal contributions to other federal-level politics candidates have been relatively modest, at least by the standards of some other prospective presidential candidates. Among the Democrats to whom he’s contributed: Clinton ($2,300 in 2007 and $1,000 in 2016), Obama ($1,000 in 2008 and $500 in 2012) and presidential candidate John Edwards ($1,000 in 2007). He also gave $1,000 in 2017 to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is considering a presidential bid in 2020. The top beneficiary of Castro’s cash? His twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. Julian Castro gave Joaquin Castro’s campaign $5,000 in 2011.
- Since forming in December, Castro’s exploratory committee has actively solicited contributions. “I believe we can build a new promise for ourselves and for our future — but I can’t do it alone. Chip in now to show your support,” Castro writes on the committee’s donation page. Castro’s committee has until Jan. 31 to publicly report its initial finances.
- Castro is a past client of the Perkins Coie law firm, whose political law group chairman, Marc Elias, represents dozens of leading Democrats and served as general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. One of the final expenses in 2016 for Castro’s San Antonio mayoral campaign committee before ceasing operations: a $10,292 “legal services” payment to Perkins Coie. Castro’s Opportunity First PAC also uses Perkins Coie.
- In October, Castro published a memoir, “An Unlikely Journey.” As detailed in his 2014 ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics, Castro acknowledged he was writing the book and agreed to put it on hold while he served as Housing and Urban Development secretary. By then, he had already received partial payment for the project. One of his early book payment installments was worth $150,000, according to a federal personal financial disclosure Castro also filed in 2014.
- While he’s hardly hurting for cash, Castro isn’t a multimillionaire. His most recent federal personal financial disclosure, from January 2017, indicates he and his wife, Erica, together have assets with a minimum value of $138,001 and a maximum value of $470,000 — not including the value of their primary residence.
- Castro isn’t afraid of palling around with the press: In 2015, he accepted tickets from CBS Washington Bureau to attend the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Value: $600. He also took a free ride in 2016 to the annual Gridiron dinner — a no-cameras-allowed confab populated by some of Washington, D.C.’s top journalists.
Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, Federal Election Commission, Office of Government Ethics, City of San Antonio, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Washington Post, NBC News and OpenSecrets.org.
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