Where does he go from here?
Passed over for Clinton’s VP, Castro’s prospects uncertain
By John W. Gonzalez and Bill Lambrecht STAFF WRITERS
The waiting isn’t over for U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro, and once again his fate rests with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Clinton strongly considered but decided against Castro as her running mate. On Saturday she introduced Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her choice going into this week’s Democratic National Convention.
Now Castro’s options depend on the outcome of the Nov. 8 election between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. While some political observers see a wide range of possibilities for Castro if Clinton wins, others contend his national and perhaps Texas aspirations would be sidetracked or derailed by a Trump win.
As the news sank in that Castro was out of the running for vice president, his hometown backers took solace in his prospects.
“We should all be very proud that he was in the hunt as seriously as he was, for as long as he was,” said former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, like Castro a former mayor of San Antonio.
Clinton’s choice of Kaine, who had more national security policy experience than Castro, was a “reflection of the times,”
not on Castro’s suitability for national office, Cisneros said. Castro may need to gain experience in some policy areas, but he would have several options in a Clinton administration to help him “close the gap” for future consideration, Cisneros said.
Aside from a Tweet declaring his support for the Clinton-Kaine ticket, Castro hasn’t commented on the selection, although Cisneros, who spoke to Castro last week, said “he did not evidence any disappointment.” Instead, Castro acknowledged “an understanding that the national security environment” had become a crucial factor during this summer of global violence, Cisneros said.
Yet, some observers view Castro’s star as fading fast, especially if Clinton loses in November.
“His future is going to be on hold until the election is over,” said Matt Mackowiak of Potomac Strategy Group. “There’s a pretty good chance in January that he’s going to be out of politics.”
If Clinton prevails, Castro “would push and work to try to get in her Cabinet because the electoral prospects in Texas are pretty dim for him in the near and medium term,” he said. A 2018 bid for statewide office would be doomed, Mackowiak, a Republican consultant, predicted.
“I can’t imagine that he’s foolish enough to do that given the overwhelming likelihood that he would lose and perhaps lose badly,” he said.
Castro, 41, was at the forefront of VP speculation for more than a year, and near the end was on the short list of potential nominees. He would have defied the odds had he been chosen. Richard Nixon was 39 when Dwight Eisenhower picked him in 1952 and Dan Quayle was Castro’s age when he became George HW. Bush’s running mate in 1988.
Castro’s selection also would have broken a decades-long pattern of Democratic running mates. Since the 1940s, 14 of 17 first-time running mates chosen by Democratic nominees have been sitting senators. And rarely do cabinet members end up on the ticket. The most recent was in 1960 when Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, who had achieved cabinet rank after being an ambassador, was Nixon’s running mate.
Joel Goldstein, a St. Louis University law professor who has written widely on the vice presidency, said that being considered for the office suggests promise for the future. He noted that John F. Kennedy first gained national attention in 1956 when he was considered as Democrat Adlai Stevenson’s running mate. And four years after Walter Mondale thought about picking Michael Dukakis or Texas Sen. Lloyd Bensten, the two made up the 1988 Democratic ticket.
“I think he (Castro) has a great political future,” Goldstein said. “He’s obviously somebody who’s very able. To be considered for vice president any time in your career is an honor. When you’re 41, it’s an incredible honor.”
Castro might well end up in a Clinton administration. If he didn’t remain at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he could be viewed by Clinton as a candidate for education secretary, given his interests in that area. Or, she might see him running the sprawling Commerce Department, an agency that could hold appeal for him, his allies say.
Political experts who closely follow Latino voting trends said Castro’s best move might be to return to Texas and run for governor or U.S. Senate — possibly targeting Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat in 2018.
Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute, said Castro benefitted from having his name bandied about as a potential vice presidential candidate and could make a credible run for governor, even though Republicans have dominated statewide politics in recent years.
“These things aren’t locked in stone. Texas used to be a blue state,” Gonzalez said. “A race for governor could be a great opportunity for him,” he said.
Laura Barberena, a local consultant and president of VIVA Politics, said Castro would be wise to line up speaking engagements in other states if he returns to Texas and hopes to raise his national profile. She said his presence could turn the tide for Democrats in the Lone Star State.
“I think he wants to serve the community, and people recognize that,” Barberena said. “We have some important fights here in Texas. He could be the one who puts us over.”
For now, his best move is to keep pursuing programs and policies as U.S. housing secretary that have a positive impact on communities, to demonstrate a focus on service rather than political ascent, she said.
Bexar County Democratic Chairman Manuel Medina, calling himself Castro’s “No. 1 fan” here, said Castro’s youthful age “gives him the brightest future of any politician in the whole country.”
Clinton’s choice was a letdown for other Castro supporters, including Democrat Choco Meza, who backed Castro “because of my immense respect for him and the qualifications that he has amassed at such a young age.”
Meza is convinced Castro and his twin, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, will remain in public service because it’s in their DNA.
“Their mother (Rosie Castro) has inspired them in so many ways. They have really embraced public service, doing it honorably and in a way that’s impactful. I don’t see any of that stopping,” Meza said.
Staff writer Scott Huddleston contributed to his report. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @johnwgonzalez