When Julián Castro took the stage at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, there were probably few in the arena or watching on TV who did not know the essence of his story: young, Harvard-educated, Texas Latino and rising political star.
Castro has been referred to as a “Latino Obama” and a “Latino Messiah” more than once since plans were announced for the San Antonio mayor to make the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. But Castro also shares the broad biographical outlines and the national political spotlight with another man, Texas candidate for U.S. Senate, Ted Cruz (R).
And in Charlotte Tuesday, the comparisons came early and often.
“Julián Castro, yes we love him. Yes we like, no, we respect the Stanford and the Harvard on his resume,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “But I also like that this man, unlike another young Latino out of Texas, will tell you that government matters, policy matters and he, like I, will tell you that he is where he is today because someone opened the way for him. “
State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat who was elected this summer to represent a district in El Paso, turned to Castro’s brother, State Rep. Joaquin Castro, for advice, but knows others who have received the same from Julian, she said. As the Latino population and electorate grow, both Castros are deeply involved in the effort to turn the solidly red Texas into a blue state, she said. Gonzalez also said that both Castro twins have been active in grassroots political organizing efforts to expand educational opportunities for Texas students.
“No disrespect to Ted Cruz, but Julian and Joaquin Castro have been on the ground doing work for years,” Gonzalez said. “Ted Cruz just sort of showed up. It seems like a 'Legally Blonde' moment where he woke up one day and said 'I want to be senator.'”
Verna Blackwell-Hilario is a Bexar County Democratic Party activist and has served as a precinct chair in San Antonio for more than 25 years. Blackwell-Hilaro has known Castro and his twin brother Joaquin since the two were in junior high, trailing their mother at political events.
“For the Republicans to put pretty boys on the stage is just insulting,” Blackwell-Hilario said. “Its just so clear when you listen to someone like Marco Rubio -- when you listen to that Ted Cruz, that that is a party that wants to try to fool Latinos into voting for them because these men have nothing to say that would actually be good for Latinos.”
For Latino delegates and political activists such as Carlos Alcala, executive director of the California Democratic Party’s Chicano Latino Caucus, the two men from Texas also represent two very different things.
“In Julián, we see a young man that’s been groomed in this party, that’s contributed to his community, who is working to make lives better,” Alcala said. “In Cruz, we see everything the Republicans are trying to do. The Republicans, they think that if they give us the right names, they don't have to give us the right policies.”
But it was Castro, 37, who on Tuesday pointed to some of the things he and Cruz, 41, have in common: Neither come from families that have long possessed great wealth or power.
Like the president, Castro was born to a woman who would later become a single mother. He was raised under what were less than affluent circumstances in San Antonio, a burgeoning center of Mexican-American political power and economic influence. In a cradle of Chicano labor and civil rights activism, Castro and his twin brother Joaquin, watched their mother register voters and get involved in community causes that, by many accounts, are too numerous to number.
Castro and his brother went on to graduate from Stanford University and later from Harvard Law School. Later, Castro became the youngest city councilmember in San Antonio history and Tuesday, the first Latino to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
Castro is so deeply concerned with Latino high school and college graduation rates. He helped to push a measure on the November ballot that will let San Antonio voters decide whether to raise the city’s sales tax rate to cover the cost of pre-school education for nearly 30,000 children.
Cruz, the son of a Cuban refugee father and an Irish-Italian American mother, was born in Canada. Years later, the Cruz family moved to the Houston area. After graduating from Princeton University, Cruz went on to law school at Harvard and served as editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. President Barack Obama held the same post while a student at the same school.
In 2003, Cruz became the youngest solicitor general in the United States when he joined the Texas attorney general’s office, arguing more than 40 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also the first Latino to serve in this position in Texas history. In 2012, Cruz launched his campaign for U.S. Senate and in July beat out Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, a white Republican, for the Republican nomination. Given Texas’ overwhelming Republican majority, Cruz is widely expected to win in November.
And while few in Charlotte Tuesday seemed to view the two men as similar -- much less political equals -- both Castro and Cruz took portions of their time on the national stage to talk about their families, generational progress, and their own conception of America's most basic promises and problems.
On Tuesday, Castro pointed to a sort of contract between hard working individuals and government.
"Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps ... and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them, he said. “But we also recognize there are some things we can't do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.""
In Tampa, a week earlier, Cruz described things differently.
“We are all sons and daughters of those who risked everything for freedom, and we have the duty to pass that same opportunity to the generations to follow," he said. "And yet today, many in Washington seem content to saddle our children with a financial debt larger than our nation has ever seen ... government is out of control."
Also on HuffPost:
Susana Martinez was the first U.S. Latina governor when she was elected governor of New Mexico in 2010. She is a Republican and the first woman to be the state's governor. Martinez, of Mexican descent, was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She was district attorney for the Third Judicial District in Doña Ana County in Southern New Mexico, a position she held for 14 years. Controversy has followed Martinez. First, it erupted when she claimed that her <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/09/09/new-mexico-gov-susana-martinez-confirms-that-grandparents-were-undocumented/" target="_hplink">grandparents first came into the country illegally. </a> She later clarified her family's past stating that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/14/susana-martinez-new-mexico-governor-clarifies-immigrant-past_n_1093443.html" target="_hplink">her grandparents followed common practices in coming to the U.S. from Mexico in the early 1900s. </a> The second controversy came with <a href="http://hispanic.cc/new_mexico_republican_governor_martinez_attacks_law_allowing_undocumented_to_obtain_drivers_licenses.htm" target="_hplink">her proposal to revoke a New Mexico state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.</a>
Marco Rubio was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 to represent Florida. He was born in Miami and is the son of Cuban immigrants. Rubio was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/25/will-marco-rubio-lie-matter-as-much-as-politics_n_1031147.html" target="_hplink">embellishing crucial details about his parents' emigration from Cuba. </a> News has been circulating of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-schneider/psssst-marco-rubio-will-b_b_940308.html" target="_hplink">a possible Republican nomination for vice president</a> in the 2012 election. Rubio told the GOP to tone down its hard-edged stance on immigration. <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2011/11/15/rubio-tells-gop-to-ease-up-on-immigration/#ixzz1doct52kh" target="_hplink">According to Fox News Latino,</a> Rubio said, "The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party. Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party."
Brian Sandoval was appointed U.S. district judge for Nevada by President George W. Bush in October 2005, becoming the state's first Hispanic federal judge. Sandoval is an American citizen of Mexican descent. He is currently Nevada governor. Earlier this year, Sandoval said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/brian-sandoval-endorses-rick-perry_n_961090.html" target="_hplink">he was backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid</a>.
Texas Republican Ted Cruz is the first Hispanic to hold the post of Solicitor General for the state of Texas. He won a runoff election against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in July 2012, and is now the GOP candidate for the Senate seat vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, has served since 1993 as representative for Illinois's 4th Congressional District. Gutierrez was born in Chicago and his parents are from Puerto Rico. He has been at forefront of every single immigration reform and immigrant rights defense struggle since 1993, <a href="http://lavoz-prcc.org/2009/04/congressman-luis-v-gutierrez-the-mastery-of-the-politics-of-making-the-impossible-possible/" target="_hplink">according to La Voz del Paseo Boricua. </a> Gutierrez has been outspoken against current deportation laws. In July, he and 10 other immigration reform supporters were arrested in front of the White House for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation of young people and families, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/26/luis-gutierrez-arrested-f_n_910348.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a> He was arrested in mid-1990s for protesting the U.S. Navy's bombing of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and in 2010 for protesting against the Obama administration's deportation record.
Luis Fortuño is the governor of Puerto Rico and president of the New Progressive Party, the political party seeking U.S. statehood for the island. In 2012, Fortuño has been an active campaigner for Mitt Romney, even being listed as a potential Vice President candidate on the GOP ticket.
Bill Richardson served as governor of New Mexico from 2003 to 2010. He also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as energy secretary in the Clinton administration. Richardson was born in California to an American father and a Mexican mother. Even after ending his term in 2010, Richardson remains an active political figure. In September 2011, Richardson visited Cuba to negotiate the release of Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba since 2009 after bringing communications equipment into the island. Richardson came back emptyhanded, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/28/wife-man-imprisoned-in-cuba_n_1117742.html" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost. </a>
Alex Padilla is a Democratic senator representing California. He is the first Latino and youngest-ever president of the League of California Cities, <a href="http://powerwall.msnbc.msn.com/politics/10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?#!wallState=0__%2Fpolitics%2F10-latino-politicians-to-watch-9701.gallery?photoId%3D38975" target="_hplink">according to PowerWall at MSNBC.</a> He is a Los Angeles native and son of Mexican immigrants. Padilla introduced a bill in the Senate that authorized $104 million in tax breaks to help "green" companies in California when buying equipment. The bill also aimed to add jobs.
Ken Salazar and John Salazar
John and Ken Salazar, both Democrats, have identified themselves as Mexican-American brothers. Ken Salazar is the U.S. secretary of the interio. John Salazar was congressman for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, serving from 2005 until 2011.
Gloria Molina is a Los Angeles County supervisor. Molina was born in California to Mexican parents. She was elected to represent the First District in 1991 -- the first Latina to do so. She quickly developed a reputation as a fiscal guardian committed to achieving good government reforms, maintaining the county's public health care system, and addressing quality of life issues -- particularly for the 1 million residents in unincorporated areas, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gloria-molina" target="_hplink">according to HuffPost.</a> After LA County jail abuse incidents, Molina made several recommendations including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/la-county-jail-abuse-boar_n_1018683.html" target="_hplink">asking to install cameras in the jails, barring deputies from striking inmates' heads, and banning the heavy flashlights deputies carry that can be used as batons.</a>
Julian Castro is the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. First elected May 9, 2009, Castro won re-election in 2011 with nearly 82 percent of the vote. "Julián Castro is the son of Rosie Castro, a well-known '70s firebrand who was among the leaders of La Raza Unida, the radical movement in Texas that was dedicated to defending the civil rights of Mexican-Americans and promoting a strong "Chicano" identity", according to <em>The New York Times</em>. "Julin really stands out," said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor of Chicano and global studies at UCLA,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09Mayor-t.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink"> to <em>The New York Times</em>.</a> "There are other talented young Hispanic politicians around, but few have his stature or national potential. He's from San Antonio, but he's very much admired in California. He's like Obama -- one of us, but someone who also comes out of a broader American experience."