Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro speaks at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 29, 2018. Credit: Erich Schlegel for The Texas Tribune

Julián Castro is taking another step toward a 2020 presidential campaign.

The former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor announced Wednesday that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider a bid and will make an announcement Jan. 12 in Texas. The committee is called Julián for the Future.

The Jefferson High School graduate, who was in his 20s when he was elected District 8 City Councilman, issued a familiar refrain in a four-minute video released Wednesday that recalls President Barack Obama’s own campaign rhetoric: “I believe we can.”

He recounted his own family’s immigrant story. His orphaned grandmother, Victoria, moved to the United States as a child, never learned to read, her education halted before fourth grade. His Chicana activist mother Rosie, despite being a single mother for most of Castro’s and his twin brother Joaquín’s childhood, worked her way through college to become the first in her family to earn a degree. Joaquín has served as the U.S. representative for Texas’ 20th congressional district since 2013.

“I believe we can make a promise to immigrants who spend a lifetime imagining how it will feel the day they arrive in America: We have room for you. We welcome you. Our destinies are united,” he said. “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 has said for months he is likely to join what is expected to be a crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is a lineup that could include another Texan, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, who is being urged to run after his closer-than-expected race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last month.

Castro has been preparing for a potential run for nearly two years, traveling the country for midterm candidates and doling out contributions through his Opportunity First PAC.

Asked last month at the Rivard Report‘s inaugural ideas festival CityFest about whether he would launch a presidential campaign, Castro he responded he would make a decision by the end of the year.

Castro’s name has been in the mix among Democratic presidential candidates since 2012, when the then-mayor gave the keynote speech at that year’s Democratic National Convention. In 2014, he joined President Barack Obama’s cabinet and was later shortlisted as a vice presidential candidate during Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 bid.

Patrick Svitek is the primary political correspondent for The Texas Tribune and editor of The Blast, the Tribune's subscription-only daily newsletter for political insiders.