Democratic candidate Julián Castro

A presidential race
nearing the end of summer 2019 with 20 candidates
still jockeying for position. We sit down with
democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro
on this edition of Iowa Press. ♪♪ Funding for Iowa
Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public
Television Foundation. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
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Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers
from across Iowa and beyond. Now celebrating more than
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Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday, August
23 edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen. Yepsen: With crucial
fall debates looming, democratic presidential
candidates are still stampeding the early
states of Iowa and New Hampshire while seeking
donations across the country. We’re joined today by
presidential candidate Julián Castro. The 44 year old Texan
is a former Mayor of San Antonio and was the
youngest member of President Obama’s cabinet
serving as Secretary of Housing and Urban
Development from 2014 to 2017. Mr. Secretary,
welcome to Iowa Press. Good to have you with us. Castro: Great to
be with ya’ll. Thank you for having me. Yepsen: Across the table
are journalists Barbara Rodriguez, Political
Reporter for the Des Moines Register and Kay
Henderson, News Director for Radio Iowa. Henderson: Mr. Secretary,
he briefly mentioned some of the resume points. What among those do you
consider most important for Iowa caucus goers
to know about you? Castro: Well, that I’m one
of the few candidates in this race that has strong
executive experience, particularly as Secretary
of Housing and Urban Development. If you think about what
the President is, you’re a federal executive, and
that’s what I was as a cabinet member. I managed a department
that had a $48 billion budget, 8,000 employees,
54 field offices across the country. I also served as Mayor of
San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the
United States, and had an opportunity to see then
how we can impact lives at the local level and also
at the federal level. As HUD Secretary I visited
and worked with 100 different communities
in 39 states. And so one of the things
that distinguishes me is that I have a strong
track record of executive experience and
getting things done. Rodriguez: Given that it’s
so crowded, so many people running for President,
there has been a lot of talk about whether some
candidates who aren’t polling very high should
consider getting out of the race. John Hickenlooper recently
left the race and has been considering
running for Senate. Why not run for Senate? Castro: Well, for one
reason is my experience directly relates to
what I’m running for. Actually I haven’t been a
legislator, I’ve been an executive, and so I feel
like what I’m running for matches my experience. Secondly, we have a good
crop of folks who are running in Texas for
Senate, a very diverse crop of accomplished
people and so I’m confident that we’re going
to have a strong nominee in November of 2020
that can help lift congressional candidates
and everybody down the ballot as well as in the
presidential contest. I believe that if I’m the
nominee for our party that I’m the party’s best hope
to expand the map in 2020 and to get the 11
electoral votes of Arizona, the 29 electoral
votes of Florida and the 38 electoral votes of
my home state of Texas. Yepsen: Why are you the
most electable candidate in the race? Iowa democrats, and you
may have noticed this, they want to beat Donald
Trump with a passion. And I hear them say, I
disagree with him on this issue or that issue, but I
want somebody who I think can win. So what is your path to
270 electoral votes? You sort of alluded to
it but flesh that out. Why are you the
most electable? Castro: Well, I think
anybody’s path begins with their general theory
of this election. And what I believe is
that if we look at these elections that there are
basically four big themes that recur. One of those is that
people want somebody who has demonstrated integrity
and honesty in public service instead of the
dishonesty that this President has. I think that they also
want somebody who is trying to achieve unity
to bring people together instead of to tear us
apart the way that Donald Trump is. I also believe that they
want somebody who will be a president for all
Americans as opposed to a president for 37% that
this President considers his base. And this is particularly
telling if you look at the races that democrats have
won in 1960 and ’76 and ’92 and in 2008, I believe
that Americans are ready for a new generation of
leadership, that they want somebody that doesn’t
want to make our country anything again but that
wants us to make us better than ever in the
years to come. And so you always have
this theme in these elections of the past
versus the future. And I don’t mean that just
with regard to age, but I think that they want a new
face and I provide that. I also believe that I can
go and get the 77,000 votes that we lost,
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by in 2016,
that my candidacy would be an historic candidacy
that can excite a lot of people. And, as I said, that I
can go and get those 11 electoral votes
of Arizona. We already had 3 people
that ran statewide in 2018 that won, Senator Sinema
and then two statewide races. In Florida that election
is always within a point or a point and a half. I’m convinced that we
can go and get those 29 electoral votes. Incidentally that’s also
why this President seems to be so focused on using
the word socialist and I believe even why he’s
talking about what the Jewish community should or
shouldn’t do in America. He’s focused on Florida. And Texas showed
tremendous movement away from the Republican Party
under Donald Trump. In the suburbs of Houston
and Dallas, the election of Colin Allred and Lizzie
Fletcher, in south Texas the overall turnout
of the Latino vote. That’s going to continue
and I believe that I can capture that moment and
win the election in 2020. Rodriguez: Just a point of
what David was trying to ask though, going to so
many different campaign events I see a lot of
different candidates making similar points. And so how is it maybe
productive to have so many candidates for the next
five and a half months? I know that you just
qualified for the upcoming debate. So how do you try to have
a breakout moment there given again that it is
such a crowded field? Castro: Well, I don’t
think, if you look at what has happened here in the
Iowa Caucus, over several cycles, ya’ll have seen
this, I don’t know that it’s any one moment. What usually happens, as
ya’ll know, is that in the last six to eight weeks
there is a gathering steam that is picked up by a
candidate or in some cases more than one candidate
and so I believe that what’s going to happen
here in Iowa is that as more people focus on the
race that there’s going to be an opportunity for some
of us who may not have been top of mind
but who are in the September/October debates
and will likely be in the two debates after that
to pick up momentum. I can already tell here in
Iowa when I come out here that more people come to
my events, that we have more grassroots support. I can also tell that
people very much are still considering who they’re
going to support in the caucus, that because
you have had so many candidates
people are open. And maybe the biggest
benefit to those of us who want to beat Donald Trump,
all of us who want to beat Donald Trump in 2020,
is that no matter what happens the person that
emerges as the democratic nominee is going to be a
stronger candidate because he or she will have to
compete, will have had to compete against very
talented people. There’s an embarrassment
of riches in terms of people who are visionary
and talented and are in it for the right reasons. In order to win the
primary you’ve got to be a great candidate and that
means that that nominee is going to be that much
stronger than if they just had to go against
two or three people. Henderson: We’re taping
this program on Wednesday. A few hours ago the Trump
administration announced a new policy for
asylum seekers. Do you consider
that a step forward? Castro: I consider
it a step backward. Henderson: Why? Castro: It’s a step
backward because instead of saying the answer is to
keep families caged longer together it should be
to actually not detain families and let them be
together on the outside. And toward the end of the
Obama administration, the administration implemented
something called a family case management program
and this family case management program was
designed so that we could make sure that people
showed up for their court date because often times
when you ask folks, well why don’t you just not
detain people, they say oh well how are we going to
make sure that they show up for their court date. Through the use of intense
case management, sort of a case worker system that
would keep in constant contact with the
individual that had to come back for their
immigration court appearance they were able
to achieve over a 95% success rate in getting
people to come back. I believe that’s the kind
of program that we should invest in instead of the
answer being well because of the Flores settlement
we can’t keep children in here more than 20 days so
let’s just abandon that and keep those families
together behind bars. That is absolutely the
wrong thing to do. It’s another example
of the cruelty of this administration and I have
a completely different vision for how we should
do immigration that uses, like I just outlined,
common sense, that would be cheaper to taxpayers
and ultimately also more humane and more effective
at accomplishing what we want to accomplish. Henderson: Were you
comfortable with the Obama administration’s
deportation record? And did you raise concerns
about it during his administration? Castro: I did. I raised concerns in 2014. I have said during the
course of this campaign that I believe that the
administration did get better in some ways on
immigration as the year went by, the number of
deportations fell, they instituted DACA in 2012
and DAPA in late 2014. They instituted that
family case management program toward the end of
the administration as a pilot program. So there was a recognition
of how we could improve our immigration system. Of course there was also
the 2013 legislation that had 68 votes in the Senate
that President Obama pursued and if John
Boehner had allowed that legislation to actually
get a vote on the floor of the House it
would have passed. So I have said, look,
there are lessons that we can learn from the past
and I have learned those lessons. I want to make sure that
we have an immigration system that is working for
our country and doing so in a way that is with
common sense and with compassion for the
people who are involved. I don’t believe in the
cruelty of Donald Trump and his administration. Rodriguez: Mr. Secretary,
you’re a Latino candidate and you’re running for
President at a time when this national conversation
over immigration is super heightened and I know that
just a few days ago you filmed an ad that was very
critical of the President. And I guess I want to make
sure I understand whether you feel a sense of
responsibility or burden in terms of how you have
to talk about this issue and constantly being
asked about issues around immigration? Castro: Well, I recognize
that for a lot of Latinos out there that my
candidacy has special meaning because there
haven’t been that many Latinos who have
run for President. And especially now when
a lot of the Latino community feels
under attack by this administration that there
is a special significance to me being on that debate
stage for a lot of people. I feel that. I also feel a
responsibility to make sure that the vision that
I put out there reflects the reality that I see as
somebody that grew up in Texas and understands that
the immigrants that we’re talking about are no
different in what they want for our country and
for themselves than waves of immigrants that came
before and that many Latinos have been here for
generations and there’s too often times a one
dimensional view of the community. So I acknowledge that, I
think I have spoken to all of those issues,
including immigration. But I also know that I’m
much more than that, that I’ve put out policy plans
on housing, on education, this week making sure that
we protect animals and wildlife. Henderson: We want
to get to those. Let’s start with housing. There’s a really dire
shortage of housing in rural Iowa. How do you envision
addressing that as President if
you are elected? Castro: I’ve called for a
significant investment for the creation of housing
that is affordable to the middle class, to the
working poor and the poor not only in urban
communities but also in rural communities by
working through HUD and also the USDA to create
more housing opportunity in rural communities. In a lot of the rural
communities that I’ve been to one of the biggest
challenges also is that the housing stock is old
and so we need money not only to create new housing
opportunity but to repair and renovate housing stock
that exists and is old. We can do that through
investment, for instance, in HOME, which has been
around since 1992, and one of the ways that money
can be used is to repair people’s homes. During the 2009/2010
timeframe there was something called the
NSP program or the Neighborhood Stabilization
Program, that was fantastically popular
because it provided a lot of flexibility in
different communities to do those things that were
tailor made for that community. We need to work with
states and local governments but give them
the resources that they need to create
that housing. Yepsen: Mr. Secretary, put
your secretary hat on and talk to local
officials in Iowa. I know you’ve been talking
to them about housing issues. What should rural
officials be doing to get more housing? What should urban
officials be doing to get more affordable housing? Any thoughts? Advice? Castro: Well, I would say
to the rural communities, look, one of the things
that I’ve learned during my time in public service
is that it’s true what they say that the squeaky
wheel gets the grease. And because people don’t
often think of the housing issue as an issue that
burdens rural communities, but those rural
communities certainly have the ear, especially of
more conservative members of Congress that don’t
tend to support investing in affordable housing
in the same way. I would encourage those
rural mayors, council members, county
commissioners, to make their voice heard on that
issue, to tell their stories of how necessary
it is to create better housing opportunity in
rural communities because often times those
congressional representatives are not
listening to that or they don’t understand that. For the urban communities
like Des Moines I would say they too should be
advocates of course. They should also make sure
that they have zoning policies, planning
policies, other land development policies that
encourage affordable housing creation and of
course I know right now that Des Moines is going
through looking at their development code and
it’s controversial. I think whatever happens
there it should be a plan that actually makes
affordable housing creation more possible,
not less possible. Yepsen: We have too many
issues and not enough time. Barbara? Rodriguez: Just also a
quick question too about some of the communities
that you are trying to reach here in Iowa. I know that it includes
a lot of marginalized communities. I also know that Iowa
is a very white state. And so I’m trying to get a
better sense of what the strategy is there. Is it a matter of trying
to get new caucus goers? Or is it more of a
national strategy of getting past Iowa? Castro: No, in fact we’re
scaling up our presence here. We’re going to put more
people on the ground in Iowa over the next few
weeks and couple of months. I’m going to compete here,
I’ve been here a lot. What I know is that if you
want to be President of this country you’ve got to
go and get the votes of people that may be
familiar to you and people that are not
familiar to you. And so of course I’m going
to try and go make sure that we’re getting new
voters involved in the process, including the
Latino community, which as ya’ll know is
growing here in Iowa. But I’m going everywhere. I’ve been to places like
Orange City and I’ve been to Sioux City and I
visited the Meskwaki settlement area
not too long ago. I’m going to make sure
that I’m going throughout the state and appealing
to people of different backgrounds and I’m
confident that if I do that by the time we get to
February 3rd that I can be one of the frontrunners. Yepsen: Mr. Secretary,
to play off Barbara’s question, a lot of
parallels have been made between your career
and Barack Obama’s. Iowa provided a breakout
moment for Barack Obama. Can a black man win? He won, in a lily white
state like Iowa he won, it rocketed him forward,
helped him carry black voters in South Carolina. Is there a parallel with
you if you can run and win in predominantly white
Iowa that this is going to energize Latino voters
elsewhere around the country? Castro: Well, I think what
is true is that people need to believe. The thing about 2008 in
retrospect was that people say that folks needed to
believe in Barack Obama. And I think, first of all,
Barack Obama is a singular figure and nobody is in
his category, his league. But I do think that I need
to have people believe and doing well here in Iowa
is one way to do that. And so I certainly see
that opportunity and that is one of the reasons that
I’m working hard here to make sure that I do well. Henderson: Sometimes
people hear the phrase animal welfare and
farmers get nervous. You have released an
animal welfare proposal this week. How would it work? Castro: Well, it has
different parts. We ensure that we’re
investing in wildlife preservation, for
instance, that we’re working with communities
across the United States to get to no kill status
in shelters throughout our country. Essentially that means
that rescue or shelter facilities are not
euthanizing pets, that they’re saving at least
90% of the domesticated dogs and cats that come
into that shelter. In addition to that we’ve
said that we would tighten regulations on factory
farms and make sure that the communities around
factory farms have an ear in the administration. Henderson: So does that
mean federal regulation of that industry? Castro: I absolutely
believe in some ways that there needs to be
regulation, sure. I’ve heard plenty of
community members here in Iowa who have talked about
the environmental impact of some of these
factory farms. I know that there’s
concern even with whether there should be any
factory farms in the future or the ones that do
exist should be allowed to expand. Obviously I’m looking
forward to that conversation. I do support pausing that
because I think that there are a tremendous number
of concerns out there. Rodriguez: I want to make
sure that I ask about health care. It’s a top issue here
in the state about accessibility and
affordability and there are a lot of different
candidates that are talking about Medicare for
all or some variation of it or strengthening the
Affordable Care Act. I want to make sure I
understand where you stand on that. Castro: I believe that we
need to improve our health care system by going to a
system that strengthens Medicare for the people
who are on it and then makes Medicare available
to everybody who wants it. I also believe though that
if somebody has a strong private health insurance
plan, one that is solid and that they want to hold
onto, that they should be able to hold onto that. Even in these European
countries, several of these European countries,
or even in Bernie’s legislation, I praise
Bernie for his efforts and he has done so much
to make this issue of Medicare for
all mainstream. But even in that
legislation there is the ability of somebody to
have a private health insurance plan for,
for instance, elective cosmetic surgery. Now, not that many people
would have that kind of plan but that’s a nod
toward the option of private health insurance. I believe that if somebody
has a strong plan that meets certain requirements
that they should be able to have a private
health insurance plan. What I don’t believe
is that anybody in our country should ever go
without health care because of the profit
motive of big pharma or big insurance companies. And I would make sure that
we have a strong, robust Medicare system that is
the primary system that people get insurance by. Yepsen: We have less
than three minutes, Mr. Secretary. Henderson: Should
Congress ratify the U.S./Mexico/Canada
agreement? Castro: Well, I hope that
the Congress takes the opportunity to really
scrub through the environmental provisions
and the labor provisions as well as the
enforcement provisions. I hope that those
provisions are strengthened, that we
can get to an agreement. I believe that any type of
agreement we enter into should make sure that
American workers are the primary beneficiaries,
that American workers come out on top and then
American companies. I also know as somebody
that comes from Texas that the United States can
lead on trade that is beneficial both to us
and to other countries. And so I hope that they’re
able to work out a deal. Yepsen: Barbara has
a question about gun violence. Rodriguez: Several
candidates including yourself have been talking
about gun violence. You had this forum a
couple of days ago here in Des Moines. The reality is though that
you have a republican controlled Senate. I’m trying t get a better
sense of the strategy there if the Senate
remains republican in 2020. Castro: I believe
at 12:01 p.m. on January 20th, 2021 that
we’re going to have a democratic President, a
democratic House and a democratic Senate. But if we don’t, there are
two things that I would do. The strategy is, number
one, everything that we can legally do with
executive authority. For instance, we would
redefine who is a firearms dealer so that if you sell
more than five weapons a year that you have to get
a license as a firearm dealer and therefore do
universal background checks. We would expand the scope
of the Violence Against Women Act to unmarried
domestic partners so that we would increase the
number of people who can get protective
orders, for instance. And keep guns out of the
hands of people that shouldn’t have them. And secondly, I believe
that we’re going to have the opportunity even if
there is a republican controlled Senate to put
massive pressure on swing state republicans. Folks saw two weeks ago
after what happened in Dayton that the Governor
of Ohio, republican DeWine got shouted down with
people saying do something, do something,
do something on common sense gun safety
legislation. We are in a new era for
common sense gun reform and I believe that there’s
more pressure than ever that will be applied to
republicans to actually do something. Yepsen: Do you think the
NRA’s power is waning? Castro: Oh, no doubt. I mean, just look at the
number of politicians out there that are openly
taking on the NRA and who are successfully
winning races. The NRA is no longer as
feared as it used to be. Yepsen: Mr. Secretary,
I’m out of time. Thank you very much for
being with us today. We appreciate
you being here. Castro: Thank ya’ll
for having me. Thank you. Yepsen: And we’ll be back
next week for Iowa Press with another presidential
candidate from Texas when former U.S. Representative Beto
O’Rourke joins us. That’s Iowa Press at our
regular times, 7:30 Friday night and Noon on Sunday. For all of us here at Iowa
Public Television, I’m David Yepsen. Thanks for
joining us today. ♪♪ ♪♪ Funding for Iowa
Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public
Television Foundation. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are,
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks.

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