Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro joins 2020 fray

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Julián Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary under President Barack Obama, formally declared on Saturday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 contest-an announcement that's been expected since he launched an exploratory committee last month.

But Castro, whose grandmother, Victoria Castro, was born in the Mexican border state of Coahuila, and crossed into the United States at Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1922 after her parents died during the Mexican Revolution, added that at no time in his life, from growing up on San Antonio's impoverished West Side to his run for mayor in 2009, was he considered the favorite to get ahead.

Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, had been considering a bid for almost two years and announced a presidential exploratory committee in December.

Often called a rising star in the Democratic Party, Castro, who was Obama's secretary of housing, is expected to be part of a huge and diverse field of candidates eager to challenge President Donald Trump. Distancing himself from President Trump's nasty feuds with the "fake news", Castro told his audience that he and his brother Joaquin were considering a career in journalism before they got into politics, so they respect the work members of the press do. "Well, I'm not the frontrunner", he said.

"I'll tell you and I'll tell the world what I'm going to do", he said this week on MSNBC. He became the second Democrat to formally enter race, after former Maryland Representative John Delaney. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

But the 44-year-old would be among the underdogs in a political showdown that may well feature heavyweights like former vice president Joe Biden, US senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, and perhaps even billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg. Cory Booker - among many other - vying for the White House.

"There's not a clear road for him right away to the top tier", University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala said in The Dallas Morning News.

Four years later he was a finalist to be Clinton's running mate.

In his convention speech Castro highlighted "an unlikely journey" that he has lived, including growing up with twin brother Joaquin, who is a USA congressman. His mother, Rosie Castro, is a prominent civil rights activist in San Antonio, a city of 1.7m people in south central Texas. "We say no to scapegoating immigrants", he said. That was the point of the American Dream: It wasn't supposed to be just a dream. It's a testament that everybody counts in this country. He was the youngest-ever city councilman in San Antonio's history when he was elected in 2001 at age 26. Among Castro's achievements was the successful promotion of a 2012 ballot measure that boosted sales tax to expand pre-kindergarten education.

He left his post and joined Obama's Cabinet until 2017, and now it looks like he's taking the next step toward the seat of the most powerful elected office in the free world. He has also visited Iowa and Nevada - two of the earliest primary and caucus states - in addition to publishing a memoir a year ago, a common first move for future presidential candidates.

"I've resolved that before I die, I want to speak it fluently", said Castro, who has used the program Rosetta Stone to learn the language.

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