Out! Democrat Julián Castro is latest candidate to exit 2020 presidential race

(Presidential Candidate Julían Castro at the Frank LeMere Native American Presidential Forum, August 2019. Photo: Indigenous Environmental Network)

The Associated Press

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the first candidate to release a policy plan for Indian Country

Paul J. Weber 

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Obama housing secretary Julián Castro on Thursday ended his run for president that pushed the 2020 field on immigration and swung hard at rivals on the debate stage but never found a foothold to climb from the back of the pack.

“I’m so proud of the campaign we’ve run together. We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people, and given a voice to those who are often forgotten,” Castro said in an online video. “But with only a month until the Iowa caucuses, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time.”

The video continues, “So today it’s with a heavy heart and with profound gratitude, that I will suspend my campaign for president. To all who have been inspired by our campaign, especially our young people, keep reaching for your dreams — and keep fighting for what you believe in." It concludes, "¡Ganaremos un día!” — which translates to “We will win one day!”

Castro, who launched his campaign in January, dropped out after failing to garner enough support in the polls or donations to make recent Democratic debates. A former San Antonio mayor who was the only Latino in the race, Castro had stalled for most of his campaign around 1 percent in polls and entered October low on money.

A few candidates of color remain after Castro exiting the presidential race. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang continues his rise from relative obscurity to start the campaign season and Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, are still holding on to their campaigns as well.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick also remains but after declaring his candidacy late, he hasn’t made much noise.

In late July, Castro was the first 2020 presidential candidate to release a comprehensive platform on Indigenous issues and made multiple visits to the Meskwaki Nation in Iowa and other Native communities during his campaign.

RELATED: Candidate Julián Castro: Respect sovereignty, honor treaties & do right

Additionally, he was one of 12 candidates to take part in the historic Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in mid-August.

During his time with the panel at the forum, Castro touched on a number of issues affecting Indian Country. He often cited his experience with tribal nations during his time spent as the housing secretary during former President Barack Obama’s second term.

He supported the “Remove the Stain Act” which would rescind medals of honor awarded after the Battle at Wounded Knee, strengthening the Indian Child Welfare Act and working to end homelessness among Native veterans.

RELATED: Julián Castro has specific plans for Indian Country & a 'gracias' for warm welcome

Despite not qualifying for the Democratic debate stage since October, Castro would offer his point of view via Twitter and the hashtag, #JulianDebates.

In the most recent debate in December, Yang said he missed his fellow candidates of color on the debate stage.

“It’s both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight,” Yang said during the Dec. 19 debate in Los Angeles.

Castro, 45, was among the youngest in the running at a moment when the party’s ascendant left wing is demanding generational change. And as the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Castro said he recognized the meaning of his candidacy in the face of President Donald Trump’s inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric and hardline policies on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But he labored not to be pigeonholed as a single-issue candidate. Castro made the attention-getting choice of Puerto Rico as his first campaign stop, recited the names of black victims killed in high-profile police shootings and was the first in the field to call for Trump’s impeachment.

But his sagging poll numbers never budged. He was often eclipsed by another Texan in the race who dropped out this fall, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and another young former mayor, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend. His campaign and supporters, meanwhile, grumbled that Castro didn’t get due credit for taking out-front positions.

Trying to show he could go to-to-toe with Trump, Castro swung for big moments on debate stages, and flirted with a much-needed breakout in June after confronting O’Rourke over not supporting decriminalization of illegal border crossings.

But turning his sights on Biden on a later stage brought swift backlash. During the September debate in Houston, Castro appeared to touch on concerns about the age of the then-76-year-old former vice president and added a parting shot at him.

“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not,” Castro said.

Castro denied taking a personal dig at Biden as others in the field condemned the exchange. Three days later, Castro lost one of his three backers in Congress, Rep. Vicente González of Texas, who switched his endorsement to Biden.

Castro had warned supporters in a fundraising appeal that failing to make the November debate stage would spell the end of his campaign. He needed to hit at least 3 percent polling in four early state or national polls but didn’t get even one.

What is next for Castro is unclear. Back home in Texas, Democrats had long viewed Castro as their biggest star in waiting and some have urged him to run for governor as the state trends more diverse and liberal.

Castro was pegged as a rising Democratic star after being elected as mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city at age 34, and he was on the short list for Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. But he swatted away suggestions on the campaign trail this time around that he was auditioning for that role again.

Indian Country Today contributed to this report

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