Utah received its second visit by a 2020 presidential candidate Wednesday from Democrat Julian Castro — the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, and a former mayor of San Antonio.
“I see myself as the antithesis of Donald Trump. I'm trying to bring the country together instead of divide Americans. I've demonstrated honesty and integrity in my public service,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview.
The 44-year-old aims to become the third-youngest president ever — behind Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy — and visited mostly Utah Latino groups. The trip is part of his vow to visit all 50 states as he tries to break from the pack of 10 announced Democratic candidates and perhaps 10 more expected soon.
“Everybody counts to me," he said. “That’s why I’m going into all 50 states during my campaign, including states like Utah that many candidates don’t come to.”
Castro was the first presidential hopeful to visit the Beehive State this year, but the second in the election cycle. The first was John Delaney, a Maryland congressman who came to Utah in January 2018 after declaring his bid for the Democratic nomination just six months into the term of President Donald Trump.
Castro, in a speech Wednesday to high school-age Latino leaders at the University of Utah, said he is running because “I’ve been able to live out my dream and I want to make sure that in the years to come — no matter who you are or where you live or what your background is — that you can live your dream, too.”
A single mom and a grandmother reared Castro. His grandmother immigrated from Mexico at age 6 as an orphan to live with extended family in poorer areas of San Antonio and never finished elementary school.
But Castro and his identical twin brother, Joaquin, now a Democratic congressman from Texas, both graduated from Stanford and then Harvard Law School.
Castro became one of San Antonio’s youngest-ever City Council members. He later served as the then-youngest mayor among the nation’s 50 largest cities; and became the youngest member of Obama’s Cabinet.
Before he was 40, he was the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. And Hillary Clinton said in 2016 that Castro was among the people she seriously considered as her vice presidential running mate.
“I want the United States to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation on Earth," he said. “I have outlined specific plans, and I believe that will stand out” from among other current candidates.
Castro outlined many of those plans in his U. speech, including:
• “We need to make higher education universal also so that if you want to go to a state university or a community college or apprenticeship program or a certification program, that you can go there tuition-free.”
• He also proposed universal prekindergarten schooling to all children.
• He wants to “improve our K-12 education system so that we pay teachers what they deserve to be paid, and we reduce class size.”
• “We need Medicare for all people [of all ages] in this country so that everybody can get good health care."
• He called for immigration reform and criticized Trump’s push for a border wall.
“You know President Trump wants us to believe that we have to make this false choice between border security and being compassionate and humane,” he said.
“We have a secure border and we can make investments to ensure that it's even more secure. But we should not be taking little children from their mothers and their fathers and detaining them.”
Castro added, “We need to end family detention. We need to restore temporary protected status for people who have been living here for years and years and building a life.”
• He vowed to make investments that would lead to more affordable housing. “If you're here in Salt Lake City, or almost anywhere you live in this country, the rents are going through the roof.”
Castro also made national news this week for being among a few Democratic candidates who favor paying reparations to descendants of slaves.
He explained that Wednesday saying, “Under our Constitution, we compensate people if we take their property. Shouldn’t we compensate people who were property? To me it’s not a political question. It’s a question of wrong and right." He favors creating a commission to work through how to make that compensation.
Castro also appeared Wednesday at a $5-per-person fundraiser for the State Hispanic Democratic Caucus at Centro Civico Mexicano in Salt Lake City.
Correction: This story has been updated from the original to reflect that Castro is actually the second 2020 presidential hopeful to visit the state.