Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro has formed a new PAC as he steps up his political activity and considers a possible run for president in 2020.
The new group is called “Opportunity First,” a favorite catchphrase of Castro’s since his days as mayor of San Antonio, though it is also similar to President Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan. The group will support candidates for federal, state and local office and could finance other political activities for Castro, who has already lent a hand to several congressional and gubernatorial candidates around the country since the end of the Obama administration.
Documents filed this week for Opportunity First list Castro as its president. Castro declined to comment.
Castro, long considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, has discussed his political intentions carefully, telling reporters that he will not run for office in 2018 but is not ruling out running for president. Castro expanded a little more in a June interview on the Austin PBS show “Overheard with Evan Smith,” telling the Texas Tribune’s Smith that he will “look and see how things develop over the next year or so and then make a decision as to whether that’s something I want to do.”
He is taking several preliminary steps associated with presidential campaigns; in addition to forming a political group, Castro is also writing a memoir.
Castro’s signature accomplishment as San Antonio’s mayor was championing a one-eighth cent sales tax increase to fund new pre-kindergarten centers, and as secretary of Housing and Urban Development he described the department as “the Department of Opportunity.” On the national political stage, Castro delivered a well-received keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention — where he called on the nation to “invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow” — before then-President Barack Obama nominated him to the Cabinet in 2014.
Castro then made Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential shortlist last year, and he campaigned around the country for the Democratic presidential nominee.
He also earned a rebuke from a government watchdog for promoting Clinton during an interview in HUD offices, and since leaving the federal government, Castro has said he is enjoying the freedom to speak out more vigorously on political issues, including the Republican health care bills and Trump’s recent announcement of a ban on transgender personnel in the military.
Castro has also lent support to a handful of Democrats in the early stages of 2018 political campaigns. He traveled to Georgia to help Democrat Jon Ossoff turn out voters ahead of the special House election there, and Castro has also endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s campaign for governor in Florida and former HUD staffer Colin Allred’s congressional run in the Dallas suburbs.
Opportunity First has filed paperwork both as a federal PAC and as a “527” organization to give the group flexibility to play in congressional and non-federal elections, a source said. 527 groups are allowed to collect contributions in unlimited amounts, but it’s not clear if Castro’s group will accept donations above the federal PAC limit.
Castro is one of several potential Democratic presidential candidates who have formed new political organizations in recent months, the earliest maneuvers in what is expected to be a long and crowded fight to be the party’s 2020 nominee.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock unveiled a federal PAC in July, while former Vice President Joe Biden created one at the end of May. Rep. John Delaney jumped ahead of everyone last month and actually launched a 2020 presidential campaign more than three years before Election Day.