The San Antonio Express-News reports that Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, has been confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate vote was overwhelming, 71-26, and Castro will take office upon his resignation from the Mayorship, which he has held since 2009. I wrote extensively on this topic back in May when President Barack Obama first nominated Castro for the post, and suffice it to say I was not really a fan of the move. But more on this later.
First things first, the obvious question is who will be the next Mayor of San Antonio? The City Charter holds that the Mayor Pro Tem, currently Councilmember Cris Medina, would immediately become Acting Mayor in the case of the Mayor’s death, resignation or removal from office. However, in San Antonio, the Council would then choose a new permanent Mayor from amongst its ranks until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in May 2015. A number of Councilmembers have expressed interest in the appointment, and a couple outside actors –namely State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County)– have also announced their tentative candidacies. I am not very well-versed in any of the inside politics of San Antonio, so I cannot offer any truly educated predictions about what will happen. Just expect fireworks.
Going back to Castro, the Senate vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a fellow denizen of San Antonio, was especially conciliatory in committee hearings and eventually voted for him. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), on the other hand, did not. Among the other opposition was the Minority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a presidential contender, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), and a one-time Presidential nominee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Yet another possible candidate, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), did vote for confirmation, as did many of the more moderate Senators. You can find the whole roll call vote at this link.
Personally, I am surprised that so few voices ran hoarse during this confirmation hearing, which are usually rowdy events. Castro is not anyone’s idea of a technocrat. He is a very vociferous Democrat, one who publicly debated Dan Patrick on immigration policy. He also delivered the keynote address to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, much as Obama had done eight years before. Castro has big ambitions –Presidential ambitions– so I am surprised that the Republicans did not put up more of a fight and let him get this far.
Of course, as I argued a couple months ago, this might not be good for Castro in the long run. He has permanently precluded himself from Statewide office in the State of Texas. Even
if when the day Texas turns blue comes, it will not be the same shade of blue that boasts obsequious adulation for our 44th President. It will surely not be the type of blue State that welcomes one of Obama’s cabinet secretaries with open arms. My inclination is that Obama will be unpopular in Texas long after the Democratic Party in general stops being unpopular.
This means, assuming Davis and the Democrats lose the 2014 cycle, Castro would be unable to put up an effective fight for the Governor’s mansion against Greg Abbott in 2018. Nor would he be able to capably challenge Cruz’s bid for reelection the same year. For most casual observers of Texas politics, including myself, this is what I had always assumed his plan would be.
The one salvation for Castro, which I desperately hope is the grand strategy behind all of this, is that Hillary Clinton –widely assumed as the Democrats’ 2016 candidate for President– selects Castro as her running mate that year. But with Clinton not even a sure-bet as a candidate herself, I am not ready to assume just yet. I suppose another alternative would be for him to continue serving into the next administration. But the bottom line is, if a Republican is elected President in 2016, Castro would find himself out of a political job.
In the meantime, Castro has about 2 and a half years on the job as HUD Secretary. I sincerely hope he does a good job, though I must concede that I have never seen a detailed plan from him on what he would actually do. As predicted, the hard Right has thrown a field day over his confirmation.
Rhymes with Right has more, from a somewhat different angle.