Julián Castro, ineligible for Democratic debate, stays visible in Atlanta neighborhood

The former housing secretary under President Barack Obama visited a black neighborhood that is fighting gentrification.
Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration on Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines.
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro speaks during the Iowa Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration on Nov. 1, 2019, in Des Moines.Nati Harnik / AP

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Gary Grumbach and Suzanne Gamboa

ATLANTA — Even though he would not be onstage at the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday night, presidential candidate Julián Castro spent the morning in the city anyway touring a neighborhood founded by slaves whose residents are now fighting gentrification.

Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, toured the neighborhood, named Pittsburgh, that was founded in 1883, making it one of the oldest in the city and where many of the neighborhood's residents have lived for decades.

Although he joked he had was in Atlanta because that's where the media was, Castro said his visit was a continuation of what his campaign has been about.

The Morning Rundown

Get a head start on the morning's top stories.

"From the very beginning of this campaign, I've spoken out for the most marginalized, the people that have been forgotten, for the poor and not only the middle class, but people who are poor in this country and spoken out to make sure everyone can succeed, a country where everyone counts," Castro said. "And so we're going to go where we have the opportunity to deliver that message."

In tweets of the event, Castro said the neighborhood's residents are being pushed out for development. He said he met with organizers from Community Movement Builders and Swope Dreams. Castro toured a garden that is used to provide fresh food in the neighborhood, which has limited access to fresh produce and is considered a food desert. He also viewed an aquaponics system that uses goldfish excrement to fertilize nearby growing plants.

In response to a reporter's question, Castro said Wednesday's impeachment hearing testimony by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is the "nail in the coffin" for President Donald Trump.

"People know now that we have a president who has violated his oath of office, who has abused his power, who has tried to get other countries to do his political dirty work, bribed them to do so with military aid that he was withholding," Castro said.

On Tuesday night, Castro participated in an event with podcast host Angela Rye and about 100 people who packed the historic restaurant where it was held, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Castro planned to watch the debate from his campaign office in San Antonio, his campaign said.

In a Facebook post, Castro said some have asked him why he's staying in the 2020 presidential race if he didn't make the debate. He answered his own question.

"In the communities I grew up in, people didn’t quit when it got tough," said Castro, who grew up in San Antonio's west side, a historically poor, Mexican American area. "Those folks deserve a candidate who has lived their struggles, who champions the issues that impact them."

Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.