While most Democratic presidential candidates are visiting San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Julián Castro said he wanted to be the first to visit Fresno.
“Too often times, people overlook the Central Valley,” he said Friday evening. “I wanted to be the first presidential candidate to come out here because I want people to know if I’m elected president, everybody’s going to count. So much of the success of California depends on the Central Valley, whether it’s agriculture or other issues.”
The former U.S. Department of Housing and Urband Development secretary and mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was the keynote speaker at the Fresno County Democratic Party fundraiser, where he gave interviews with the media before the program.
Starting off his speech, he told the crowd at the fundraiser, “I bet my family story is a lot like the family stories of people here in the room.”
Castro said Fresno’s long been considered the affordable part of the state, but that’s starting to change. “We need to make sure there’s an affordable housing supply that helps this community to meet that challenge,” he said.
Castro grew up in San Antonio which depends on an underwater aquifer for its water supply. He used that experience to relate to the Valley’s toxic drinking water plauging many rural communities. “I understand the importance of ensuring that a place like the Central Valley has the water it needs,” he said.
His experience with local politics helped him know how to reach across the aisle and appeal to moderate and conservative voters, he said.
Castro recently hit 65,000 donors, the number needed to qualify him for the first round of debates with the Democratic National Committee.
During his talk, he highlighted his campaign platform, such as funding for education, expanding Medicare, criminal justice reform, equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, investing in affordable housing, recommitting to the Paris Agreement on climate change and reforming the immigration system.
“This president wants us to believe we have to choose between border security and compassion,” he said. “I believe our border is more secure than it’s ever been. …We don’t need to be cruel. We can be compassionate. I’m asking people to be compassionate over cruelty.”
His plan calls for a path for citizenship for Dreamers, expanding refugee programs, ending the criminalization of illegal immigration, a 21st Marshall Plan for Central America and more.
“My vision for our country is that we be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation on earth,” he said.