Julian Castro drops out of 2020 US Democratic presidential race

Former housing secretary Julian Castro on Thursday ended his run for US president that pushed the 2020 field on immigration and swung hard at rivals on the debate stage but never found a foothold to climb from the back of the pack.

“I’m so proud of the campaign we’ve run together. We’ve shaped the conversation on so many important issues in this race, stood up for the most vulnerable people, and given a voice to those who are often forgotten,” Castro said in a video posted online.

“But with only a month until the Iowa caucuses, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time,” he added. “So today it’s with a heavy heart and with profound gratitude, that I will suspend my campaign for president. To all who have been inspired by our campaign, especially our young people, keep reaching for your dreams – and keep fighting for what you believe in.”

He concluded with, “¡Ganaremos un dia!” – which translates to “We will win one day!”

Castro, who launched his campaign in January, dropped out after failing to garner enough support in the polls or donations to qualify for recent Democratic debates. A former San Antonio mayor who was the only Latino in the race, Castro had stalled for most of his campaign around 1 percent in polls and entered October low on money.

Castro, 45, was among the youngest in the running at a moment when the party’s ascendant left wing is demanding generational change. As the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Castro said he recognised the meaning of his candidacy in the face of President Donald Trump’s inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric and hardline policies on the US-Mexico border.

But he laboured not to be pigeonholed as a single-issue candidate. Castro made the attention-getting choice of Puerto Rico as his first campaign stop, recited the names of black victims killed in high-profile police shootings and was the first in the field to call for Trump’s impeachment.

But his sagging poll numbers never budged. He was often eclipsed by another Texan in the race who dropped out late last year, former Representative Beto O’Rourke, and another young former mayor, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend. Castro’s campaign and supporters, meanwhile, grumbled that he did not get due credit for taking out-front positions.

Trying to show he could go to-to-toe with Trump, Castro swung for big moments on debate stages, and flirted with a much-needed breakout in June after confronting O’Rourke over not supporting the decriminalisation those who cross the border between official points of entry.

But turning his sights on Biden on a later stage brought swift backlash. During the September debate in Houston, Castro appeared to touch on concerns about the age of the then-76-year-old former vice president and added a parting shot at him.

“I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not,” Castro said.

Castro – who was Obama’s housing secretary in his second term – denied taking a personal dig at Biden as others in the field condemned the exchange. Three days later, Castro lost one of his three backers in Congress, Representative Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, who switched his endorsement to Biden.

Castro had warned supporters in a fundraising appeal that failing to make the November debate stage would spell the end of his campaign. He needed to hit at least 3 percent polling in four early state or national polls but did not get even one.

What is next for Castro is unclear. Back home in Texas, Democrats had long viewed Castro as their biggest star in waiting and some have urged him to run for governor as the state trends more diverse and liberal.

Castro was pegged as a rising Democratic star after being elected as mayor of the nation’s seventh-largest city at age 34, and he was on the short list for Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. But he swatted away suggestions on the campaign trail this time around that he was auditioning for that role again.

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