While the country still reels from a week of shocking violence, speculation continues to swirl around the Democratic veepstakes. According to the Associated Press, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro are all on Hillary Clinton’s short list.
Though he previously denied he was in the running, Castro is now giving a more diplomatic answer. When Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos asked Castro last week if he was being vetted for the job, he said, “I don’t have a comment on that. I’m going to let others guess about that process.”
Despite the conventional wisdom that he is too inexperienced for the job, there is certainly a case for Castro to be vice president. He represents a unique American success story. His presence on the ticket would mobilize Latino voters in November. Plus, he would provide the Clinton campaign with a dash of youthful appeal.
Amelia Chassé, a spokeswoman for the conservative America Rising PAC, told The Texas Tribune that Castro is too inexperienced to be vice president. “It will be a sad state of affairs if Secretary Clinton’s political expedience forces her to put someone so completely unqualified one heartbeat away from the presidency,” she said.
Chassé’s words are rich in irony, considering that the Republican candidate for president has never held public office and lacks a coherent political ideology. Besides, the GOP seems to have invented the concept of under-qualified vice presidents; both former Vice President Dan Quayle and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have come to be seen as something akin to national punchlines.
In contrast, Castro is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law School. He was elected three times to serve as mayor of San Antonio, the country’s seventh-largest city. As mayor, he led successful urban renewal efforts and a ballot initiative for universal Pre-K for the city’s children. At HUD, he has strengthened the Fair Housing Act and worked to make home mortgage premiums more affordable. On the issues, he is a good match for Clinton because he is a reliable progressive who supports immigration reform, women’s health rights, LGBT rights and sensible gun control.
Castro’s selection as veep would be historic because he would be the first Latino on a national party ticket. Having Castro on the ticket would electrify Latino voters and give them a reason to turn out in large numbers in battleground states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.
Voter turnout among Latinos will be critical to the Democrats’ chances in November, so Clinton cannot take it for granted that antipathy for Donald Trump will drive Hispanics to the polls. With his working-class background and Mexican-American heritage, Castro personifies the aspirational message needed to mobilize Latino voters. For Latinos, many of whom were bitterly disappointed by President Barack Obama’s immigration legacy of a record number of deportations and a blocked executive action plan, Castro could represent a reason to have faith in politics again.
At 41, Castro is the youngest potential Democratic vice presidential nominee and could help Clinton attract millennial voters. He would likely serve as an effective bridge to the former Bernie Sanders supporters who still view Clinton with wariness.
True, both Elizabeth Warren and Tim Kaine would be strong veep choices as well. However, Warren is a sitting senator in a state with a Republican governor. If she were to join Clinton’s ticket and win, her temporary replacement would be named by a Republican — which could make it harder for Democrats to win back control of the Senate and support President Clinton’s agenda. Kaine is a self-described “boring” guy who has been criticized for accepting gifts and vacations while serving as governor of Virginia.
And the argument that Clinton needs to pick a white male to shore up her standing with white male voters is no longer persuasive. Just consider that that slice of the electorate is declining, while the number of Hispanics and other voters of color is growing. In fact, the Pew Research Center estimates that the Hispanic share of the electorate will be 12% this year, up from 7% in 2000.
There are also other potential qualified Latino candidates for vice president, such as Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California) and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. But they are not as well known as Castro, and Clinton would have a limited amount of time to introduce them to voters. In a June Bloomberg poll of likely Clinton voters, Castro was the third choice for vice president, behind Warren and Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey). The other two Latino candidates did not even rank in that poll.
As a potential vice president, Castro embodies the progressive ideal of diversity. He deserves a nod for Clinton’s 2016 ticket.