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What a Castro VP Pick Could Mean to His Fledgling State Party


The big, headline-grabbing news over the weekend at the Texas Democratic Convention was actually quite a bummer for the party: Julián Castro, the “post-Hispanic Hispanic politician” who’s become a celebrity of sorts within his party, probably wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick. At least that was the subtext to Castro’s comments in a press conference last Friday saying the Clinton campaign wasn’t vetting him and that his chances of getting the gig were probably slim. “I’ve said for a long time I don’t believe thats’ going to happen,” he told reporters.

Less than a week later and Castro’s apparently back in the running, with news breaking yesterday (via unnamed sources within the Democratic Party, of course) that San Antonio’s former mayor is indeed on a shortlist of candidates the Clinton campaign is considering for the VP spot (others include Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren). On Friday, Castro wasn’t being vetted for the job. Now, apparently he is.

It feels like Castro has been on the pundit and political media shortlist for the VP gig ever since delivering the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. He quickly became a valuable political commodity, the idea being that his party would need a young, rising star like him to energize the sleeping-giant Hispanic voter base moving into the general election. His chances as a VP pick, however, began to look shaky with the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Wouldn’t the prospect of a Trump presidency get more Hispanics to the polls than a relatively obscure South Texas city politician-turned cabinet member? Perhaps Castro was no longer needed.

If the state party felt deflated after Castro’s sort-of announcement last week that he wasn’t being vetted for VP, that’s probably because the fledgling state Democrats desperately need something to draw out the voters needed to turn Texas blue. In addition to organizing problems endemic to the party (words used by Democratic insiders when describing to us their convention this weekend: "unorganized," "disappointing," "shitshow"), Brandon Rottinghaus, a political analyst at the University of Houston, told us over the weekend that if "the Democrats don’t get a star, especially a Latino one, at the top of the ticket, they simply can’t bring out the voters they need."

The state Democratic party convention this past weekend made it pretty clear that Castro – and to a lesser extent his twin brother – is the biggest star the party has right now. There’s always the possibility that, if Castro isn’t picked for Clinton’s VP candidate, he'll sit out an election cycle, bide his time and come home to run in Texas.

Which could spell more rocky years for state Democrats in the meantime as they continue to struggle for relevancy in a deep red state. As Rottinghaus put it, “If the party’s stars won’t move, the party won’t move.”

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