Austin, Texas — We recently caught up with Joaquín Castro, who lately announced he would be running for Congress in the 35th congressional district of Texas. The district runs from San Antonio through Seguín to the southern part of Austin. Castro held an event here last week in which supporters and potential supporters came out to get to know the candidate.
Castro basically introduced himself to the friendly crowd and shared a little bit about why he’s running and what his plans are for Congress. We sat down with Castro before the event and asked a few questions and took a video. Check it out and let us know what you think.
NT: Why do you want to run for Congress?
JC: I’m running in this race because I believe that over the coming years it’s going to be important that in Congress we help rebuild the American dream. My grandmother, when she was 5 or 6 years old, came to this country as an orphan and worked for decades as a maid, a babysitter and a cook. And her American dream was to become a chef — but she never had that opportunity.
And growing up she always had that dream. But by the end of her life, her dream was that her daughter, my mom, and her grandkids would have a better life than she did. And in that she succeeded. I think for all Americans, wherever they reside and including the Latino community, I think that’s their dream: to have a great opportunity in America, and also to leave a better opportunity for their kids and grandkids. So I’m going to be talking about how we do that, how we build what i call the infrastructure of opportunity to help folks live up to their potential.
And that includes a strong public education system, a strong higher education system, a sound healthcare system and great jobs that pay a living wage. And for all those reasons, I think we have to make an effort to rebuild that prospect for the next generations of Americans.
NT: People seem to be making this election about race, the fact that you’re Latino and Congressman Doggett is white, how do you respond to that?
JC: I’m very proud to be Latino. I think folks should be proud of where they come from, wherever it is, whatever community they’re from. At the same time, I don’t think you should be pigeonholed to be a Latino politician, or an African-American politican, an Asian politician, just because you are of that ethnicity.
The fact is, I think if you can speak to the issues that affect the Latino community — and every other community in the district, and quite frankly that’s not an option, that’s a prerequisite for being a viable candidate in this job and really a requisite for serving as congressman. Just because it’s a majority Latino district, doesn’t mean you can ignore everyone else. And you shouldn’t. And I will not.
NT: How is education important to you as a Congressional candidate, given it’s importance to you as a state representative?
JC: Public education to the 35th congressional district is extremely important. It is the surest path to success. And there are several pockets, neighborhoods of poverty [in the district]; I grew up in one on the west side of San Antonio, which is included in part in this district. So for folks especially [those living] in poverty, really one of the only ways out is to get a good education and to become whatever it is that kids want to become — whether it is a lawyer, a doctor, an artist, to live out their American dream.
For that you have to have huge investment in public schools and one of the things that the Republican majority has done is started to dismantle that infrastructure of opportunity by decreasing their investment in public education and in higher education. And we have a real job to do in turning that around and changing that tide and i look forward to taking it on.
NT: What’s the difference between you and Lloyd Dogget, the long-serving Texas Democratic congressman set to run for the same seat?
JC: First of all, I respect Congressman Doggett’s service. He was first elected to public office and has mostly served in public office since a year before I was born, 1973. So I respect him greatly. What I think I would bring is a new voice, a fresh perspective, one that, with a lot of energy and a lot of passion, will pursue rebuilding that American dream for the people of this community.
Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD[Video By News Taco; Photo By News Taco]