Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro participates in an interview at the 2018 Texas Tribune Festival. Credit: Erich Schlegel for The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN – Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who served as secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, reiterated Saturday he is still thinking about challenging President Donald Trump in 2020.

“If there’s something I’m going to run for, it’s president,” Castro told Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Emily Ramshaw and about 50 people who gathered to listen to his interview during the Texas Tribune Festival in downtown Austin. 

He added later that he would likely “make a decision before the end of [this] year” and make an announcement “probably toward the beginning of next year.”

Just as the presidency shifted back to the GOP after Barack Obama’s tenure, Castro said he anticipates another dramatic swing back to the Democratic party – toward “unity” and “integrity” after the most divisive and “most corrupt” administration.

Castro was vetted for the vice presidency by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and speculation – fueled by his stated interest – about a possible 2020 run has been swirling for more than a year. Recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire have only fueled betting pools that he’s drumming up national support from potential voters and donors.

“Are you afraid to lose?” Ramshaw pried further into his presidential aspirations.

“When I feel the time is right, I’m absolutely willing to go out on a limb and take political risk,” he said.

If he were to run, his platform would emphasize the United States’ need for a fresh, “21st-century blueprint for opportunity,” Castro said, adding that the current plan is out of touch with new technology and economies. “The nature of work is changing in this country.”

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro participates in a one-on-one conversation with Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Emily Ramshaw. Credit: Erich Schlegel for The Texas Tribune

While his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas), was expected to run for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) spot, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) took on that race, Ramshaw said, and it’s become the most watched race in the Texas midterms. Did Joaquín feel like he had to take a step back?

“I don’t think he felt like he was really giving anything up,” Juliàn said, adding later that the hype about O’Rourke defeating Cruz for the historically Republican seat is not a pipe dream. “I believe the polling that says it’s a very close race.”

Trump this summer endorsed Cruz, whom he accused of “accomplish[ing] absolutely nothing” for the people of Texas when the two competed for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. When Trump attacked Cruz’s father and wife during that race, Castro said the junior senator failed to defend them publicly.

If you can’t stand up for your family, Castro said, “then who the hell are you going to stand up for except yourself?”

The Cruz-O’Rourke debate scheduled for Friday was postponed as the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford testified sexually assaulted her in high school, led to an FBI investigation of the incident. The vote is delayed until that investigation is completed. Cruz, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, took Kavanaugh’s side.

“Was Kavanaugh lying?” Ramshaw asked.

“Yeah, I believe that he was at least fudging the truth,” Castro said.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org