Julián Castro

Democratic Presidential Candidate Julian Castro Eyes California Voters

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Presidential candidate Julian Castro thinks he's got what California wants and needs.

"California has led in so many ways fighting climate change creating opportunity for people to reach their dreams making sure we stand up for education," the former San Antonio mayor said in a recent interview with NBC Bay Area.

The Democrat said he knows what it takes to stay in the game despite not making the cut in Thursday's debate in Los Angeles.

Castro said he used his voice on the national stage in past debates to elevate the concerns of the poor, people of color and especially Latinos -- poised in 2020 to be the largest racial and ethnic group of voters.

"I haven't been afraid to tackle the issue of immigration," Castro said.

It's an issue that may not get play in Thursday's debate with Castro's absence due to debate qualifications that resulted in a contest made up of six white candidates and one Asian man, with no black or Latino voice.

"I think the DNC is going to have to rethink the thresholds they've put in place. It's clear that you can buy your way on that stage by spending a lot on Facebook ads," Castro said. "We need to insure the nominating process reflects the diversity of the Democratic party.

Castro's vision for voters is an America where everyone counts. It's a mantra he learned alongside his twin brother, Texas congressman Joaquin Castro.

"My grandmother worked as a maid, a cook and babysitter," Castro said.

As second-generation immigrants, the Castro brothers launched their American dream in the Bay Area.

"My story in politics in many ways starts here in California," Castro said. "The first thing I ever ran for was the student senate at Stanford. I did that with my brother after we watched what happened here in 1994 with Prop. 187.

That state initiative aimed at stopping immigrants without legal status from accessing public schools and health care. Twenty-five years later, Castro said the issue of immigrant rights is still central to California and the nation.

"I believe there are more Americans that understand we can reform our immigration laws, have accountability and governance and treat people with compassion instead of cruelty," he said.

The former head of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development also said he has a handle on one of the Bay Area's biggest issues: homelessness.

Castro got an up-close look at the issue in September when he toured a homeless camp.

"I want to be a strong partner in Washington by providing more resources that we need to get permanent housing," he said.

But first he has got to secure his own place in California's March primary.

"What I've been taught is that you don't give up, you keep going, you work hard," Castro said.

Before the primary, Castro needs to make it to the Iowa caucuses. On Thursday, Castro released an advertisement in that state in which he tells Iowans that it's time to begin the nominating process in a state that better reflects the nation's diversity.

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