Julián Castro's campaign had been stalled for months. Wednesday's debate gave it new life.

"I showed the American people that I have the right experience to be president," Castro said. "That I have a strong, compelling and positive vision for the future of this country."

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro says he accomplished his goal for Wednesday's debate.
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro says he accomplished his goal for Wednesday's debate.

We're tracking the Texas stories in the presidential contest, from the Texans in the race to all candidates' efforts to reach voters and raise money in the state. We've also compiled stories from our archives related to Texans running for president.MIAMI – Before Wednesday night, even some longtime Julián Castro fans had been privately wondering if his presidential campaign was effectively over.

In a Democratic field that includes political novices and back-bench U.S. House members, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama cabinet member had become an afterthought.

“He just had been forgotten,” said Moses Mercado, a Democratic lobbyist who is close to a number of Texas members of Congress.

Then came the first debate.

“He needed to do something,” Mercado added. “I’m not sure if I'd been smart enough to say, ‘Go after O’Rourke,’ but it worked. ... In execution, it was brilliant.”

It's a sentiment with which Castro agreed in a news conference Thursday morning.

"Coming into the debate, it was clear that I had to introduce myself to the American people," he said. "There are a lot of voters who didn’t know who I was, what I’d like to do if I’m elected president. I accomplished my goal for the debate."

Castro's campaign is officially jump-started. How long it lasts and how far he can carry this momentum is anyone's guess in this turbulent political moment.

But Castro had been promising for months that his presidential campaign would live or die based on his performance at the first presidential debate.

For now, at least, "Castro for president" will live to fight another day.

Castro's biggest problem has been a Democratic field so sprawling that only top-tier candidates have been able to earn significant attention. His second-biggest problem has been Beto O'Rourke, the former congressman from El Paso who saw his national profile rise last year via a spirited campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Democrats are making it up as they go along in getting a handle on the 23-candidate field. To keep the first debates manageable, they split the field into two nights and excluded a handful of contenders. By chance, Castro landed on the first stage with the Texan who has outshone him for over two years — O'Rourke. And it was O'Rourke he went after.

Sparring over whether to repeal a federal law that criminalizes improper border crossings, Castro interrupted his fellow Texan and unleashed on him:

"You said recently that the reason you didn't want to repeal Section 1325 was because you were concerned about human trafficking and drug trafficking," Castro said to O'Rourke. "But let me tell you what: Section 18, title 18 of the U.S. code, title 21 and title 22, already cover human trafficking."

As the two men talked over one another, Castro got out what would turn out to be the line of the night: "If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section."

Yet O'Rourke also moved quickly to try to flatten Castro's momentum, announcing Thursday morning that he will hold a campaign event Friday evening in Austin. The event is set for one hour before a planned Castro meet-and-greet just blocks away.

O'Rourke's campaign did not stop there. In a media advisory detailing the Austin stop, the campaign noted that in a recent Texas poll, "Beto held a three-point lead over Vice President Joe Biden and a twenty-five point lead over fellow Texan, Julián Castro."

"I did my homework"

For over a decade, Castro was the next big thing in Democratic politics. While mayor of San Antonio, President Barack Obama selected him to deliver the 2012 Democratic National Convention keynote speech — the platform that launched Obama and, in 1988, future Texas Gov. Ann Richards to political stardom.

But that speech — and Castro’s municipal and federal service — were mostly forgotten when contrasted against the flash of the crowded Democratic field.

It did not help that Castro launched his bid in January, when many were more focused on whether his fellow Texan — O’Rourke — was going to join the race, too. Castro could not even credibly claim to be the dominant Democrat in his own backyard.

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Yet Castro has taken several steps to distinguish himself in a crowded field. He made Puerto Rico the first place he visited after officially kicking off his campaign, and he has since become the first 2020 candidate to visit Flint, Michigan, the site of an ongoing water crisis. He was the first 2020 Democrat to release a detailed immigration plan, and only O'Rourke has since joined Castro in putting out such a platform. And he was the first 2020 contender to say impeachment proceedings should begin against President Donald Trump, beating U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts by a matter of hours.

Still, the national media has not always given Castro the attention — or credit — for the distinct moves, a source of mounting frustration within his campaign in the run-up to Wednesday night. After the debate, Castro was not shy about airing the grievances.

“The media have been paying attention only to certain candidates so far,” Castro told reporters as he navigated a post-debate scrum late Wednesday night. “I think that’s going to change after tonight.”

Heading into this week, speculation had grown that Castro's campaign was on its last legs. His fundraising was in the tank, and worsening the situation, Castro's twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, frustrated Texas Democrats by declining to run for U.S. Senate after a prolonged deliberation.

But Wednesday night marked a confluence of factors in Castro’s favor. The dimmed star power in the first debate gave him an opportunity to be the center of attention he likely would not have had if he drew a Thursday night debate lot.

Mostly, though, television underscored that Castro was the only Latino major candidate running for president, and he presented himself as an expert on immigration policy. With the misery at the U.S.-Mexican border and in detention centers elsewhere in the country at the forefront of Democratic voters' minds, Castro finally had an opening.

“You have to be prepared. I prepared myself. I did my homework,” he said Thursday morning, another veiled shot at O'Rourke. “And that clearly paid off.”

As the sun came up in South Florida on Thursday morning, the glow was on Warren. She was the highest-polling Democrat on the stage Wednesday night, and pundits widely perceived her as the best-performing candidate.

But that Castro managed to stand out at all was unexpected — and it was news. Nothing helps a lower-tier presidential candidate break through the noise like beating expectations.

Since last night, Castro has found himself at the center of political fascination. It was not just that he pushed himself to the front — but that he did it at O’Rourke’s expense. Intrastate rivalries in presidential contests always make for great drama. Think of the endless speculation around the relationship between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016.

The Castro camp repeatedly stressed that the move was not personal.

“I like him," Castro said of O'Rourke on Thursday morning.

When asked Thursday morning if he had a better shot than O'Rourke at flipping Texas, he did not pause: "Yep, sure."

"I believe that I’m the party’s best shot at getting 29 electoral votes in Florida, the 11 electoral votes in Arizona and 38 electoral votes in my home state of Texas," Castro said. "And that if I am the nominee, we will see unprecedented gains in the Latino vote. That it will go through the roof. And that that will have consequences, positive consequences, for the Democratic Party like you’ve never seen before."

Maintaining momentum

The bigger problem for Castro is that he's only hours away from the next debate. And as much as his back-and-forth with O’Rourke raised eyebrows, the center-stage fight between former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the one Democrats are raring for.

So Castro’s moment in the Sunshine State could be fleeting.

The onus is on him is to leverage the attention into a debate slot in September, when the selection process gets more restrictive. Party leaders are anxious for the field to thin. Castro is almost certain to make the cut for the next set of debates in July. But for the third debate, he will need to draw at least 2 percent support in four qualifying polls and the support of 130,000 individual donors.

The latter cause may have been helped Wednesday night. Castro indicated Thursday that his fundraising after the debate had been the best of his campaign so far.

“I showed the American people that I have the right experience to be president. That I have a strong, compelling and positive vision for the future of this country. And that I can hold my own, go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump."

It’s a sentiment Castro has expressed before. It's just that, for the first time, he is being taken seriously.




Kamala Harris Takes Center Stage At Chaotic Democratic Debate

Embedded videoThe California senator consistently controlled the stage, including when she pressed Joe Biden to address racial injustice and civil rights.

Sen. Kamala Harris’ first big moment of the debate was saying, “America does not want to witness a food fight.” Her second was heaving an entire tray of spaghetti in former Vice President Joe Biden’s face.

The conversation devolved into undecipherable crosstalk a few minutes into the Democratic debate on Thursday, as 10 presidential candidates tried to stand out at the same time. Biden had just responded to a direct swipe at his age from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) when Harris stepped in and cut through the noise. “America does not want to witness a food fight,” the California senator said. “They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.” 

On a night that featured the two Democratic front-runners ― Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ― it was Harris who consistently controlled the debate stage time and time again with clear and measured answers, direct and pointed shots, and lucid and tremendously personal examples.

“As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race,” Harris said, cutting in during a discussion of racial justice. 

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), right, pushed former Vice President Joe Biden to talk about his past stance on busing.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), right, pushed former Vice President Joe Biden to talk about his past stance on busing.

In the most riveting moment of the night, Harris pointedly told Biden how much he had hurt her when he had boasted about working with two well-known segregationists and talked about his opposition to busing. 

“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, turning to the former vice president and saying she agreed with him on the importance of finding common ground. “But it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”

“It was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing, and there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me,” she added. 

The moment felt historic: A leading candidate for president ― who is the second black woman ever elected to the Senate ― went after an elder statesman for his positions on civil rights and criminal justice that affected her personally. Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama, has pointed to his record in the administration and his more recent views on issues of race, but Harris made clear that there was more work to be done. 

Biden called her comments “a mischaracterization” of his position, saying he did not “praise racists.” He also said that he opposed busing by the Department of Education, not all busing. 

“But so the bottom line here is, look, everything I have done in my career, I ran because of civil rights, I continue to think we have to make fundamental changes in civil rights,” he said. 

The Harris campaign was quick to tweet out a childhood photo of the senator after the exchange, recognizing that her line landed well. 

But from the beginning, Harris did what she could to keep the debate ― and her own responses ― focused. 

Early in the evening, Harris rejected the NBC/Telemundo moderators’ question about whether Democrats had a responsibility to explain how they would pay for their various ambitious proposals.

“Where was that question when the Republicans and Donald Trump passed a tax bill that benefits the top 1% and the biggest corporations in this country?” she asked in reply.  

On the issue of “Medicare for All” ― on which she appeared to waver during and after her first CNN town hall ― Harris was also resolute, raising her hand alongside Sanders when the moderators asked who was in favor of a government-run health care plan. 

But rather than get mired in a debate between Sanders and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) about the practicality of prohibiting private health insurance for all but cosmetic procedures, Harris invoked everyday Americans’ difficulties with the private insurance system. She told the story of a hypothetical parent with private insurance who takes a feverish child to the emergency room but debates whether to enter and risk facing a $5,000 out-of-pocket cost.

“That’s what insurance companies are doing!” she declared.

Throughout the night, Harris provided specifics and examples that drove home her points from multiple angles.

When asked about immigration, Harris said she would take executive action on her first day as president to reinstate DACA status and protections, and that she would “further extend protection for deferral of deportation for their parents” and undocumented veterans ― a plan Sanders praised. 

“I will release children from cages,” she said. “I will get rid of the private detention centers, and I will ensure that this microphone that the president of the United States holds in her hand is used in a way that is about reflecting the values of our country.”

She also said she didn’t want to live in a country where an undocumented rape victim feared reporting the crime.  

Cities Nationwide Refuse To Cooperate With ICE’s Mass Deportation Raids

Image result for ice agents

Officials in major cities are taking a stand against President Trump’s threats for mass deportation in order to protect their immigrant residents.

Mayors, city officials and police departments from across the country are refusing to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after seeing reports that the agency will launch sweeping deportation raids in at least 10 major cities over the weekend.

The raids, expected on Sunday, are targeting up to 2,000 migrant families who’ve received deportation orders, the Washington Post and Miami Herald reported on Friday. 

ICE agents are expected carry out the deportations in cities with large immigrant communities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.

Mayors in cities that have asserted its status as so-called “sanctuary cities,” such as San Francisco, criticized the reported deportation plans and reached out to their immigrant residents offering support.

In a statement Friday night, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she directed the Chicago Police Department to not cooperate with ICE or their enforcement efforts.

She also ordered Chicago police to cut off any access ICE has to the parts of the city’s police database that contain information on immigration enforcement activities. Lightfoot said she has “personally spoken to ICE leadership” to voice her objections to the raids.

“We are all aware of the threat from President Trump regarding raids by ICE, and in response, Chicago has taken concrete steps to support our immigrant communities,” she said.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday night reiterated her city’s status as a so-called sanctuary city, where police and city officials vow to refuse to work with federal officials to detain and deport immigrants. 

“It is unconscionable that the Federal administration is targeting innocent immigrant families with secret raids that are designed to inflict as much fear and pain as possible,” Breed said in a statement. “Here in San Francisco, we will always demonstrate our values of diversity and inclusiveness by being a sanctuary city that stands up for all our residents and neighbors.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the city would provide support the city’s immigrant community and warned immigrants of their rights.

In a separate statement, the Los Angeles Police Department said it would not be participating or enforcing ICE’s deportation efforts. The department did note that immigration violations are a matter of federal law and would only be handled by ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned residents of the raids and provided a link to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative where immigrants can find resources for pro bono legal representation.

New York’s Immigrant Affairs office, which operates under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, also alerted the city’s residents of ICE’s sweeps and shared information on immigrant rights during raids.

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said that the city did not receive any notice of the upcoming raids, adding that the city would not support “family separation or the round-up of immigrant families to spread fear in our community.”

The Denver Police Department told the Denver Post that they do not typically assist with any ICE operations. However, the Denver police would assist in cases of emergency.

Hancock suggested that the city would “do whatever we can to prevent the inhumane practice of family separation.”

“Threats from this [White House]. which are only a distraction from its failures, won’t weaken our resolve,” he tweeted.

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young told CBS Baltimore that he was “deeply disturbed” by the ICE reports and said the city needed to preserve the relationship residents have with its local law enforcement officers.

“I am proud that Baltimore is committed to upholding the American values of respecting the rights and dignity of every resident,” Young told the news station. “Regardless of the position of the federal government, we will continue to stand by our decision to be an inclusive, fair and welcoming city.”

While Washington D.C. was not included in reports of deportation sweeps, the district’s Mayor Muriel Bowser denounced Trump and called the sweeps “cruel.”

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