A rising star from the Lone Star State’s U.S. House District 20 in San Antonio, 38 year-old newly minted Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro is a fresh faced, politically polished, former Obama surrogate tapped to serve as president of the 113th Congress’s freshman class of 38 Democrats.
A former five term legislator from Austin’s State House, Castro originally eyed a run at national political office in the newly redistricted 35th, but then set his sights on the 20th when former Democratic Representative Charlie Gonzales announced his retirement. Gonzales held the seat for seven terms, succeeding his father, Henry Gonzales who occupied it for 37 years.
A blue buoey bobbing in a deep red sea, the Texas 20 went for President Obama by large margins in both of his elections, and as evidenced by the double digit drubbing suffered by Castro’s GOP opponent, David Rosa, the district remains solidly blue, with a +8 Democratic advantage according to the Cook Partisan Voting Index.
Castro is Mexican-American, and with immigration reform currently dominating the zeitgeist inside the Beltway, Democrats on the hill looking to put a new face on the type of policies they favor, are cashing in on that cachet. In Castro’s case however, that new face might be his, but it won’t be him presenting it.
Kicking off Capitol Hill’s first immigration reform hearing, Castro’s identical twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, headlining ahead of eight other participants, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning endorsing both the president’s plan and recent proposals floated by the Senate.
Literally stepping out into the national political spotlight, Joaquin Castro made his first big splash at the 2012 Democratic Convention introducing his brother Julian as the key-note speaker. Not to be upstaged by his younger brother by one minute, Mayor Castro unleashed such a tsunami of enthusiasm over the crowd it had some calling him the “next Obama.” As the Junior Senator from Illinois, Obama delivered the 2004 key-note address; four years later, he was elected president.
This wasn’t the first occasion the political aspirations of Mayor Castro have been advanced by Congressman Castro. During Juan’s first mayoral campaign in 2005, both brothers were accused of pulling off a “Parent Trap” styled political hoax when Joaquin attended an important public event, supposedly as his brother. Joaquin Castro denies the allegation and publicly demurs saying, as twins, they are both often misidentified. Julian Castro lost that race to former Federal Judge Phil Hardberger, whom he succeeded in 2009.
Like Obama, Castro graduated from Harvard Law School and was once a community organizer. His mother, Rosie Castro, a self identified “Chicana” and one time city council candidate for La Raza Unidad, a political party advancing Mexican-American civil rights, was a fire breathing political activist sometimes bordering on the radical. In a 2010 NYT’s Magazine profile of her son Julian, she says of the Alamo “I hate that place and everything it stands for.” Complaining about how her teachers would glorify the battle of the Alamo from the American perspective, she said, “When I grew up I learned that the ‘heroes’ of the Alamo were a bunch of drunks and crooks and slaveholding imperialists who took land that didn’t belong to them.”
Far from radical, Joaquin Castro is a moderate liberal with a legislative history reflecting that of a pragmatist. Demonstrating another Obama-like trait, when Castro was in the state house he voted, “Absent,” and, “Present” on two measures recognizing same sex marriage, and continuing to emulate the president, says his views on the issue have evolved.
Castro is assigned to the House Armed Services Committee, he is pro-choice, and despite supporting Obama’s plans to reform gun control policies, received a 42% rating from the NRA. He is unmarried.