Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 campaign

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge President Donald Trump accelerates, while anticipation grows around bigger names still considering a White House run.

"I'm running for president because it's time for new leadership, because it's time for new energy and it's time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities that I've had are available to every American," he told cheering supporters.

Castro, who could end up being the only Latino in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field, officially kicked off his campaign with a rally in his hometown of San Antonio, where he was mayor for five years. The ex-housing secretary became the second Democrat to formally enter race, after former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has also started an exploratory committee for president, and four other Democratic senators are taking steady steps toward running. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Congress, is planning a bid, too.

Castro, the 44-year-old grandson of a Mexican immigrant, made the campaign announcement at Plaza Guadalupe on San Antonio's middle-class west side, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The impasse over a border wall that Trump made a central promise of his 2016 campaign has led to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump was at the Texas border on Thursday to press his case for a wall that he said would help solve a humanitarian and security crisis at the border.

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SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 15: Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro introduces Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a 'Latinos for Hillary' grassroots event October 15, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas. The event was part of the campaign's ongoing effort to build an organization outside of the four early states and work hard for every vote. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro speaks at the National Fair Housing Training and Policy Conference at the Housing and Urban Development Department in Washington, DC, on September 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 04: The Honorable Julian Castro and Eva Longoria, actress and co-founder, Latino Victory, attend the Latino Victory Foundation's Latino Talks event at The Hamilton on May 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro after taking part in a discussion on 'our nation's urban centers,' and 'challenges from housing and transportation to education and workforce accessibility' at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 11: Chairman Susan Collins, R-Me., introduces HUD Secretary Julian Castro, center, to Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member, before a Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing in Dirksen Building on FY2016 budget estimates for the Housing and Urban Development Department, March 11, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Julian Castro, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), speaks during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. The hearing was entitled 'The Future of Housing in America; Oversight of the Federal Housing Administration.' Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 18: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) swears in Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (L) as his wife Erica and daughter Carina look on during a ceremonial swearing in ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was officially sworn in on July 28. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S President Barack Obama, right, gestures to Julian Castro, secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as they arrive to speak at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Castro, the former San Antonio, Texas mayor, was sworn in this week and will begin his duties on Monday, Aug. 4. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JUNE 17: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro testifies at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on his nomination to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, June 17, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
INDIANOLA, IOWA - SEPTEMBER 15: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro speaks at the 36th Annual Harkin Steak Fry on September 15, 2013 in Indianola, Iowa. Sen. Harkin's Democratic fundraiser is one of the largest in Iowa each year. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 05: First lady Michelle Obama talks with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (C) and his brother Joaquin Castro during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE. NC - SEPTEMBER 4: Democratic National Convention keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D) addresses the 2012 Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by /The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Joining Castro at the campaign kickoff was his twin brother, Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, chairman of the Hispanic congressional caucus and a frequent Trump critic.

The Democratic field is starting to take shape even though the first primary elections are more than a year away.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California this past week published a memoir , a staple of presidential candidates. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke is doing little to dim speculation that he might jump into a field that has no clear front-runner.

Castro is aware he lacks the name recognition of potential 2020 rivals or the buzz surrounding O'Rourke, whose flirtations with 2020 have tantalized donors and activists after a close race last year against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

But Castro, who has repeatedly dismissed talk that an O'Rourke candidacy would complicate his own chances, has framed the neighborhood and his upbringing as the story of an underdog.

Castro was raised by a local Latina activist. After a brief career in law, he was elected mayor of the nation's seventh-largest city at 34. It wasn't long before Democrats nationally embraced him as a star in the making, particularly one from Texas, where a booming Hispanic population is rapidly changing the state's demographics and improving the party's fortunes.

Castro delivered the keynote speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Two years later, President Barack Obama picked him to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He was on the short list of Hillary Clinton's potential running mates in 2016. During Castro's trip this past week to Nevada, one state Latino business leader told Castro that he should again be a top contender for vice president if his campaign falls short.

Like other Democrats running, Castro has said he will not accept money from political action committees tied to corporations and unions, and he has sought to introduce himself to voters as a champion for universal health care and affordable housing.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

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