A high-ranking official in the administration of former President Barack Obama is making it clear that he has “every interest” in running for president in 2020.
Julián Castro, who served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017, is set to be the headline speaker at the New Hampshire Young Democrats’ annual Granite Slate Awards Dinner on Feb. 16.
The Granite State holds the first presidential primary contest of the presidential election cycle, following the Iowa caucuses. In addition to speaking at the event, the 43-year-old Castro recently launched the Opportunity First political action committee, which he formed last year.
These moves have sparked speculation regarding his future political plans.
“I have every interest in running” for president, Castro told NBC News. “Part of the process of figuring out whether I’m going to run is going to listen to folks and feel the temperature” of the voters.
Castro emphasized that at this point, he is focused on helping Democrats win back majorities on the state and federal level.
“I’m going to spend my time in 2018 making sure that great young progressive candidates get elected. I’ve been very impressed with the ground work the New Hampshire Democrats have done getting young people to step up, supporting candidates to take back important seats,” he said.
Particularly with President Donald Trump currently holding the highest elected office in the land, Castro is dedicated to ensuring that the Democratic Party gains more control.
“This guy is taking the country in the completely wrong direction and he’s hurting people while he’s doing it,” he said of Trump. “I have a completely different vision for the country and this seems like an important moment to turn things around.”
The former Obama administration official’s presence at the Hew Hampshire event has meant there is greater interest in the annual dinner.
Normally, only 100-125 people attend, but this year, with more people expected to go, it had to be moved to a bigger venue. Tickets are going for as much as $2,500.
“Traditionally we have not had a big name speaker come … but after the 2016 elections there’s been a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, so it’s grown,” said Lucas Meyer, the president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats.
“The dynamics of this country have so dramatically shifted since Obama, and you have a lot of young people looking to run for office.”
Indeed, Castro does seem to be a rising young star in the Democratic Party.
At the age of 26, Castro was elected to the city council in San Antonio. From 2009 to 2014, he served as mayor of the city, and in 2016, he was thought to be on Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s short list for vice president.
Since Obama left office, Castro has worked on writing a memoir. He’s also been teaching at the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Meyer praised Castro, hailing him as an inspirational leader who is “speaking the language young people speak and connecting on those issues.”
Moreover, he recognized that Castro’s speech is drawing particular attention due to the possibility of him challenging Trump in 2020.
“It’s New Hampshire,” Meyer said. “It’s hard for anyone to come to the state without the speculation swirling and he’s not being shy about that.”
But a presidential run from Castro would likely not come without controversy.
In July 2016, the Office of Special Counsel determined that Castro violated the Hatch Act, a law which prohibits federal government officials from participating in political activities.
During an interview several months earlier, Castro had touted Clinton’s candidacy while the HUD seal was visible behind him, according to The Washington Free Beacon.