AUSTIN – Fighting for name recognition in an already crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro painted himself as a progressive candidate in front of an audience at South by Southwest Conference & Festivals on Sunday.
Castro discussed his vision for the United States in a Texas Tribune-hosted event at the conference. “Conversations About America’s Future” garnered such guests as fellow Democrat presidential candidates Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Indiana; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota); and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts).
Mayor of San Antonio from 2009 to 2014, Castro said he is still crafting his platform for his 2020 presidential run, but so far a list of the policies he has publicly endorsed include universal prekindergarten, Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and other proposals endorsed by an emerging democratic socialist wing of the party led by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York).
But some on the left have attacked Castro’s record as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, a role he served during the last years of the Obama administration. In 2016, while his name was on a shortlist of candidates to be then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s running mate, liberal groups pointed to Castro’s handling of mortgage sales to Wall Street as evidence he should be disqualified from the running.
On Sunday, Castro also voiced his support for measures as diverse as reparations for descendants of slaves, marijuana legalization, college-free tuition, and universal basic income during the wide-ranging interview with HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen.
The native San Antonian faced questions at the South by Southwest event about whether his background as a mayor of a city with a weak-mayor form of governance, a lower-profile member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet, and his relative lack of foreign policy experience make him ill-suited for a presidential run.
He said his lawmaking experience thus far, combined with his “inclusive vision for the country,” is enough to qualify him for the highest office in the country.
“We’ve had a number of presidents that didn’t have foreign policy experience, so to speak, before they became president on the Republican and Democrat side – Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama,” he said. “We’ve seen that presidents can come into office without that kind of experience, but as long as they surround themselves with a strong team they’re able to do a great job for the country, and that’s what I would do, too.”
Watch the conversation with Castro here.