Julian and Joaquin Castro, rising political stars in Texas and the Democratic party, have been involved in politics since they were three years old. From attending La Raza Unida rallies with their parents in 1970s San Antonio, to later tying for first place in their first student senate race at Stanford University, the 38-year-old twins were destined for political clout and fame. Vogue recently called them “a pair of aces” and “one-two punch.”
Julian has been the mayor of San Antonio since 2009, serving as the youngest mayor in the United States, and he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last year, catapulting him to the national spotlight. His twin brother Joaquin is now a U.S. Congressman after spending 10 years in the Texas House of Representatives. Now, of course, politicos and voters alike are waiting with bated breath to see what the future holds for the Castro twins (who, might I add, are so identical that I’m glad they each wear a different colored tie when on stage together).
Tuesday night, Julian and Joaquin sat down with master interviewer and Founder/CEO of Texas Tribune Evan Smith at the LBJ Presidential Library to talk about issues important to the future of Texas, and the country. During the evening, the brothers covered an array of hot button topics, from Medicaid expansion to gun control.
Health insurance for low-income working adults
The Castro brothers are in Austin this week urging our state’s leadership to accept Medicaid Expansion, part of the overall health reform law that gives states the opportunity to provide coverage to more low-income Texas adults through the public health insurance program. The move would give approximately 1.5 million more Texans health coverage and bring billions of dollars back to Texas. While the state leadership has staunchly refused the measure, Joaquin called it both the moral and economically right thing to do.
“These are human beings, many of whom are suffering without health care, and the only time they see a doctor is when they go to the emergency room,” he said. "As taxpayers, that money is already going to Washington. The question is, are we going to take it back, or are we going to let it go to other states?"
The Castros agreed that it's not a matter of politics but a matter of priorities, especially now when more than 6 million Texans lack health insurance. "What do you make a priority of the state?" Julian pointed out. The governor "has been de-prioritizing investments that are important so that you can have healthy families in Texas," he said.
Public education for Texas kids
As mayor of San Antonio, Julian focuses his attention on public education for all of San Antonio's children. On Tuesday, he laid out his recently successful effort to pass Pre-K for SA, a ballot initiative that raised local property taxes by one-eighth of a cent to fund pre-kindergarten for the city's four-year-olds.
"Tackling the issue of education achievement, which I see as the primary issue for a city's advancement... I had to do it," Julian said. "Everything is part of the job [of being mayor], infrastructure and all that, but I wouldn't get the same satisfaction of being mayor if I didn't get to tackle [education]."
Julian's ballot initiative passed in San Antonio last November, and now more than 22,000 four-year-olds in the city will attend pre-K over the next eight years.
The soon-to-be Hispanic majority in Texas
As the Hispanic population grows exponentially in Texas, and the Lone Star State becomes a model for the future of the country, another issue du jour is immigration reform. Being Hispanic themselves and representing so many Hispanic constituents, the Castro twins are hopeful that both political parties are getting closer to a compromise over the question of a pathway to citizenship, guest-worker programs and border security.
At the end of the tunnel, "there's daylight," Julian said. "This is the moment that we should take on comprehensive immigration reform."
The Castro brothers grew up in a Hispanic-majority city, and with Texas on its way becoming a Hispanic-majority state by 2040, Smith asked what we Texans have to look forward to "when the population finally turns."
"A replenishment of exactly what has made America great," the mayor said first. "A community with a great work ethic, very patriotic, folks of faith... an America that is positioned to excel in the 21st century."
"Reasonable restrictions" on guns
As the debate over gun reform heats up in Washington, the twins were quick to point out that neither "begrudge" the Second Amendment. They support concealed carry and an American's right to defend himself or herself against an intruder. However, they say they support "reasonable restrictions" such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban that will protect against tragedies like those in Newtown, Aurora and Tucson. They bemoaned the U.S. Senate's delay to vote on one of the many gun reform proposals.
"I think we should take a vote on it. There are certain issues where the country needs to know where you stand, and they deserve to know where you stand," Joaquin said.
As for what the Castro brothers will do next? Only time will tell. While Smith tried to get Julian to say he’ll run for Governor of Texas in 2018 after his tenure as mayor, and Joaquin to say he’ll run against Sen. Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate, neither twin took the bait.
A Democrat hasn’t been elected to a statewide office in Texas since 1994, and as the political and social shift across the country continues, all eyes will be on Julian and Joaquin as they continue down the path to political stardom, causing ladies and dudes everywhere to swoon with every glistening white smile.