HUD Secretary Julián Castro Is Dems' Big Name At USHCC Conference

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro briefs reporters on the progress of long-term disaster recovery efforts 10 years ater Hurricane Katrina on August 18, 2015 at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN / AFP - Getty Images

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By Suzanne Gamboa

No Democratic presidential candidates made it to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Houston conference this week leaving a potential future candidate to speak for the party.

Housing Secretary Julián Castro, seen as a potential vice presidential pick and by some as a possible future president, was part of the chamber’s Tuesday lineup at its annual conference being held in Castro’s home state of Texas.

As a member of the administration, his appearance officially was not political, but considering his potential as a vice presidential nominee with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, it was difficult to make that differentiation.

“I believe Julián Castro is doing an amazing job and I believe he’s going to point the way forward for this country,” said Javier Palomarez, USHCC president and CEO, who has previously tagged Castro as the first future Hispanic president.

“I believe that he has so much more yet to offer America and I happen to know that there is a woman named Hillary Clinton who believes as I do that the best is yet to come for Julián Castro,” Palomarez said.

In his introduction of Castro, Palomarez praised the former San Antonio mayor for his work in drawing Google Fiber to San Antonio. In early August, the city announced the fiber optic network that has been incrementally installed in cities around the country was to be in San Antonio. AT&T also is bringing GigaPower Internet to the city.

Google Fiber also is a partner with Castro’s agency, HUD, for the administration’s ConnectHome project, in which eight national Internet Service Providers are partnering with local officials and community groups to provide broadband Internet access to families in public housing at no costs. San Antonio public housing has been selected as one of 28 communities where this project will first be implemented.

RELATED: Renewing Home Buying Confidence Has Framed Julián Castro's Year At HUD

“We’re going to reach up to 275,000 houses including 200,000 children in 28 communities,” Castro said. “All of this work is part of a broader effort to shape a future where every child in our nation has a chance to thrive, where every person, no matter their background, their last name, color of their skin, whether they speak with an accent has the chance to pursue their dreams and to succeed.”

In his speech, Castro touted administration policies on health care, trade and success in economic recovery.

He urged Congress to heed President Barack Obama’s call for a budget that reverses so-called sequestration, which refers to automatic spending cuts, and invest in the economy – or as he said it, avoiding a “self-inflicted wound.”

Obama and Congress are in another budget face-off with a deadline looming to avoid another government shutdown. An agreement must be reached Sep. 30.

Castro also moderated the conference’s mayoral plenary, asking questions of his successor in the San Antonio mayor’s office, Mayor Ivy Taylor and of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Both are Democrats.

The only time immigration came up was when Castro mentioned it in passing in a question to the mayors that focused on education, an issue that he said had a bigger impact.

“We owe it to our nation’s future to make sure our children have the tools to compete,” Castro said in his speech.

Republican Jeb Bush was the biggest name at the gathering of Latino business owners and Latino officials for major corporations. He spoke Monday. Texas’ Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, also was part of the speaker lineup. Front-runner Donald Trump wanted to participate but the chamber declined.

Clinton was invited but could not fit it in her campaign schedule, said Ammar Campa-Najjar, the chamber’s spokesman. Campa-Najjar said the chamber limited the invitations because of the conference’s tight schedule so once Bush agreed no other GOP candidates were invited. The Democratic invitation was limited to Clinton since former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had already participated in a candidate question and answer forum with USHCC.

Campa-Najjar said the chamber has asked Clinton to participate in the presidential candidate forum series the chamber has been holding. Castro was confirmed to speak before USHCC reached out to any of the other candidates.

Vice President Joe Biden also was unable to accept an invitation to give the conference’s closing speech, telling the chamber in a phone message he was “trying like the devil to see if I can get this done,” but that it conflicted with his planned meeting with the pope Wednesday.

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