After gunning for more than a year for the top of the Democratic ticket, former presidential candidate Julián Castro has shifted his focus lower down the ballot to candidates that he considers “bold progressives.”
Castro launched his political action committee People First Future on Thursday to lend his political clout to other Democrats, starting with eight congressional candidates, including his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The PAC borrows part of its name from Castro's “People First” campaign theme.
“My campaign was focused on an America where everyone counts and where we invest in the most vulnerable communities so that all of us can prosper,” Castro told NBC News. “I want to make sure that we elect bold progressive leaders who believe in that same vision.”
Castro planned to discuss the PAC, coronavirus impact and other issues in an Instagram Live conversation Thursday afternoon with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who also ran for president and was endorsed by Castro.
Castro was the only Latino candidate in the Democratic nomination race. His campaign was packed with policies aimed at tackling structural inequities affecting struggling Americans in areas such as housing, education, criminal justice and immigration—inequality which he says is being felt in the coronavirus pandemic's disproportionate impact on Latinos and African Americans.
Castro said the PAC’s focus on down ballot races takes him back to his political beginnings. Castro was 26 when he was elected to the San Antonio City Council, then the youngest council member ever elected. He also served as the city’s mayor before becoming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.
“So much of the action, so much of the policies that affect people’s lives happen at the state and local level, not only the federal level,” Castro said.
The PAC has begun work on organizing small dollar online fundraisers and social media outreach to help the candidates. Two former campaign staffers, Sawyer Hackett and Natalie Montelongo, are working with him on the PAC and his brother will serve as board chair. Castro also plans to appear at events with candidates and share campaign expertise, email lists and other such work.
The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new reality for candidates as they try to introduce themselves to voters, persuade them to remember to vote and raise money without being able to hold traditional campaign rallies and events or go door-to-door.
“I know the difference that local candidates can make and I’ve also seen at the national level what a difference good elected leaders can make. I’m committed to helping bold progressives at every level to change their communities for the better,” said Castro, who has not yet been folded into the campaign of apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“The candidates we are endorsing today and will be endorsing in the next few months are new to politics and they are aspirational and can win if we are willing to support them,” Castro said.
The candidates the PAC endorsed Thursday are Rep. Lucy McBath, who is running for re-election in Georgia Congressional District 6; Marie Newman, Illinois CD-3; J.D. Scholten, Iowa CD-4; Rep. Lauren Underwood, running for re-election in Illinois CD-14; Sima Ladjevardian, Texas CD-2; Wendy Davis, Texas CD-21; Sri Preston Kulkarni, Texas CD-22; Gina Ortiz Jones, Texas CD-23; Candace Valenzuela, Texas CD-24; Julie Oliver, Texas CD-25; Mondaire Jones, New York CD-17. All are Democrats.