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Julian Castro speaks at Iowa fair as he mulls presidential bid

August 17, 2018

DES MOINES — Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said he wants to “get a sense” of Iowa during his visit this week, and that if he decides to seek the Democratic nomination for president he will offer a vision of what Americans need in the 21st century

“Politics is a combination of personality and the integrity people see in a person, and the vision that somebody has. Of course, you have to be able to raise a certain amount of money, but I don’t worry about that,” Castro told reporters.

When a reporter observed that Castro isn’t showing up on some of the lists of top-tier potential candidates, Castro replied that such lists often are compiled in Washington and New York, not Iowa.

“If there’s a lesson in Iowa over the last 40 years, it’s that the state doesn’t always do what it is expected to do,” he said.

Castro, 43, who was Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration, spoke to reporters after his first major speech in Iowa, an address at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair.

ON THE SOAPBOX: Julian Castro’s Iowa trip is a must for a presidential candidate

Iowa’s precinct caucuses are the presidential election season’s first contest every four years, and lesser-known presidential hopefuls view Iowa as an opportunity to emerge. The 2020 Democratic field promises to be especially large, with 15 or more candidates vying for the nomination.

Castro’s three-day trip to Iowa is his first this political cycle; he campaigned in the Hawkeye State for Hillary Clinton in 2016. He is meeting with activists and Latino leaders and helping Democratic candidates on the ballot in 2018 raise money.

At the state fair Soapbox, Castro spoke on a knee-high platform surrounded by hay bales near a 15-foot-high inflatable ear of corn.

He told his story of growing up in San Antonio with his twin brother Joaquin in the home of a single mother and immigrant grandmother, noting how they afforded Stanford University in the 1990s thanks to grants and loans. His story is the basis for an autobiography scheduled to be published in October.

“This country has been the greatest when it matches meaningful opportunity with hard work,” he said.

“What we need is a blueprint for the future because we know what worked yesterday is not going to work today,” he said. “We have leaders in Washington D.C. who seem absolutely committed to taking us backward.”

CAMPAIGN THEME? Castro says nation is ready for a new generation of leaders

Castro drew applause when he spoke of the need to invest more in social safety net programs for seniors “because they’re going to need it more than ever before.”

The issue of single-payer health insurance - referred to as “Medicare for all” - has become increasingly popular among Democrats, who have watched the steady erosion of the Affordable Care Act in a Republican-run Congress.

Responding to a question from the audience, Castro said he believes “we need to embrace Medicare for all” - adding that he believes there are several alternative plans that need to be discussed.

The Register’s Political Soapbox is a tradition in Iowa politics, and for Castro it represented another step as he considers a national candidacy. He reiterated that he will make his decision after the midterm elections.

On Thursday, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock reminded fair-goers that he was the only Democratic governor to win re-election in 2016 in a state won by Donald Trump.

Others looking ahead to 2020 who have climbed the Soapbox stage in recent days included U.S. Reps. John Delaney of Maryland and Eric Swalwell of California, both Democrats, independent Evan McMullin, Democratic financial backer Tom Steyer and Democratic entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

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