- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2020

Julian Castro became the latest casualty in the 2020 presidential race on Thursday, bringing an end to a once-promising bid that helped drive the conversation on immigration, but failed to gain traction with Democratic primary voters.

Mr. Castro made immigration and criminal justice reform central parts of his campaign and put his imprint on the race early on by making an issue of his plan to decriminalize crossing the border without permission.

“We’ve put forward some of the most bold and comprehensive policies that rivals any candidate,” Mr. Castro said Thursday, noting he was the first to release a detailed immigration plan.

Mr. Castro, however, struggled in the polls, missing the cut for the most recent debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, and failing to live up to the political hype that started taking hold around the time he delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

“That’s why, it’s with a heavy heart and profound gratitude, that today I will suspend my campaign for president of the United States,” Mr. Castro said. “With the Iowa caucuses just around the corner, and given the circumstances of this campaign season, I have determined that it simply isn’t our time.”

The announcement coincided Thursday with a report from WMUR-TV in New Hampshire that New Age author Marianne Williamson had laid off her entire campaign staff, signaling that the end could be near for her long-shot presidential campaign too.

The latest reshuffling comes a month out from the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Castro, who served as mayor of San Antonio before joining the Obama administration as Housing and Urban Development secretary, entered the race with high hopes.

He touted his immigrant upbringing and experience as mayor of Hispanic-majority city in an attempt to tap into the fury that Democrats and liberal activists have directed at President Trump over its approach to immigration.

His biggest moment came in the first Democratic debate when he forced other candidates to say they’d study his proposal to repeal Section 1325 of the immigration code, which makes jumping the border a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

“I do think he started a very important conversation that highlights the importance of policy nuance when it comes to the immigration debate — especially when we are under an administration that twists the facts on immigration,” said Pili Tobar, deputy director of America’s Now, an immigration rights group.

“Immigration is a top issue for voters, but more than anything else it is the top issue for Trump. And so whether we like it or not, it is front and center in the election,” Ms. Tobar said.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is black, lamented in a fundraising email blast that “yet another person of color exiting a field of candidates that began as the most diverse in our nation’s history.”

“Here’s the reality: It seems like billionaires with bottomless checkbooks have a clearer path to the nomination than talented, experienced, qualified candidates like Julin Castro,” he said. “Julin’s early exit is a loss for our party and this nominating process.”

Sayu Bhojwani, founder of New American Leaders and New American Leaders Action Fund Founder, said the end of the Castro bid and Sen. Kamala Harris’ abrupt departure from the race last month has left a void.

“Make no mistake — these otherwise qualified candidates have dropped out due to the continuation of systemic racism perpetrated by the political and donor establishment,” Mr. Bhojwani said. “With only four other candidates of color in the race, most of whom were not included in the last debate, communities of color are faced with a representation void in 2020. This is unacceptable.”

Mr. Castro made a similar argument in recent months, attributing the diminishing diversity of the field to the fact that the nomination contest kicks off in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are overwhelmingly white, a demographic profile that does not reflect the Democratic electorate.

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