GRINNELL — Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro told Iowa crowds Tuesday he’s not starting the 2020 race as the front-runner but he hopes to convince Iowans to choose him as their favorite by Feb. 3, the date of the first-in-the-nation Iowa precinct caucuses.
“We have 40 weeks left. Right now I’m not the front-runner in this race. But I wasn’t born a front-runner. I didn’t grow up a front-runner. I bet there are a lot of people in this room who didn’t grow up a front-runner; a lot of people in this state that don’t feel like a front-runner; a lot of people in our country who don’t feel like front-runners right now,” Castro, 44, told about 70 people during a college-town tour that also included stops in Ames and Des Moines.
Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio who served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, said he was “casting the net far and wide” by introducing himself and his beliefs, laying out his vision for education, health care, immigration and foreign policies and listening to the issues on the minds of Iowans who take their role as the first deciders in the presidential selection process very seriously.
“For those of you who are shopping around, I hope that you’ll stayed tuned to the campaign,” the Texan said, noting he plans to unveil a comprehensive education plan next week that would include paying teachers more, reducing K-12 school class sizes and expanding universal preschool to the entire country and making higher education more affordable, with things like tuition-free college and help in paying off onerous student debt.
He also touted a health care plan that would expand the existing Medicare system for current members and extend it to all Americans while allowing those who want to keep their private insurance to do so.
“I’m just focused on my own vision for the future and connecting with audiences, getting out and doing these town halls,” Castro said after the campaign event. “Working hard. My vision for the campaign is to steadily build support, not to be a flash-in-the-pan candidate or somebody that’s hot for a month, but to build the foundation of strong support to be peaking at the right time in early February of 2020.”
During his Grinnell appearance, he highlighted his executive experience as a Cabinet secretary overseeing a $48 billion budget and 8,000 employees from 2014 to 2016 and pointed to his years as a city council member and mayor as proof he has a proven track record of getting things done.
He also touched on his immigration stance, which he said would reverse a number of Trump policies by stopping family detentions and spending on a southern border wall while improving and overhauling the U.S. legal immigration and refugee programs.
He also is proposing a 21st-century Marshall Plan for Central America to focus on stabilizing the countries migrants are fleeing.
“I’m really not into trying to make this country anything again,” said Castro in a reference to Trump’s 2016 MAGA campaign theme. “I don’t want to go backward. I want to go forward. I do, however, want to go backward in one way. I want to bring back some decency and integrity to the Oval Office.”
Castro’s Iowa visit drew the attention of the Republican National Committee, which issued a statement calling him a “bottom-tier candidate” looking to boost his popularity in the state by pitching his plans for the southern border that are out of step with new poll results showing a majority of Americans believe there is a growing crisis.
For his part, Castro continued to make the case Tuesday for impeaching the current president, pointing to the release this week of a statement from hundreds of former federal prosecutors who claimed special counsel Robert Mueller would have recommended indicting Trump for obstruction of justice if Trump weren’t president.
“The Mueller report made clear that there were 10 incidents where the president obstructed justice or tried to,” Castro said in an interview. “The question is: is the president above the law? I believe he’s not and so the Congress should move forward with impeachment. The risk of not moving forward is that the American people begin to believe that he did nothing wrong in fact and so they give him a clean bill of political health.”
In Ames, Castro hit on the same themes and told the Ames Tribune he would recommit the United States to the Paris Climate Accord “so that the United States will lead on sustainability and combating climate change again. If we don’t get it right, the consequences could be devastating so we need to get on track. This administration has gone in the wrong direction, has listened to climate deniers. I would get us back firmly on the side of science and investing in sustainability.”
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Kylee Mullen of the Ames Tribune contributed to this report.