United States Secretery of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro smiles as he mentions Hillary Clinton (right). Photo by Scott Ball.

Thousands of Hillary Clinton supporters crowded inside Sunset Station on Thursday morning, welcoming the Democratic presidential candidate to the Alamo City as she launched her “Latinos for Hillary” campaign. Clinton’s visit was marked by an official endorsement from U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Julián Castroa San Antonio native and a potential running mate in the 2016 presidential race.

“I think really highly of (Castro), and I am thrilled to have his endorsement today,” Clinton said. “I am going to really look hard at him for anything – that’s how good he is.”

Clinton, yet to face her first caucus challenge in Iowa and primary challenge in New Hampshire, isn’t talking publicly about a likely running mate, but the endorsement from Castro furthered speculation that he could be her choice for vice president if she wins the Democratic nomination or as a member of her cabinet if she goes on to win the general election in November.

Still, it’s intriguing to imagine the Latinos for Hillary campaign returning to San Antonio late next summer so Clinton and Castro can reunite, this time as the Democratic ticket.

According to the Pew Research Center, a record 11.2 million Latinos voted for President Obama’s re-election win over Republican challenger and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in 2012. Even Democrats believe Texas will a Red State for the forseeable future. Despite the state’s growing Hispanic population, low participation and turnout is one o f several factors keeping Texas from becoming a two-party state. The biggest Latino voter turnout rates for national elections are in key electoral swing states such as Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

That doesn’t stop candidate from both parties courting the growing Latino vote.  San Antonio’s Latino population trails Miami and Houston, but Castro’s endorsement of Clinton could raise San Antonio’s profile as growing Latino city in 2016.

Prior to the endorsement, Clinton participated in a Q&A session hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, where she discussed her approach to comprehensive immigration reform and addressed some of the recent anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from GOP presidential candidates, particularly the outspoken frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (left) responds to a question from United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Javier Palomarez. Photo by Scott Ball.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (left) responds to a question from United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Javier Palomarez. Photo by Scott Ball.

“Immigration is good for America. Immigration built our country and has provided a pathway for opportunity,” Clinton told Hispanic Chamber President Javier Palomarez. “We have to call people out when they say Mexican immigrants are drug dealers and rapists. Somebody needs to say, ‘Basta! Just stop.’”

Clinton told the audience that she wanted to be known as the “small business president,” and credited her time as a U.S. senator in New York with helping her create positive business relationships and helping new businesses grow.

“Hispanic owned businesses are the fastest growing in America, and Hispanic women are starting more businesses at a faster rate than anyone else,” she told an audience of local business and community leaders. “I want to create more paths forward for you to be successful that will disproportionately help the Hispanic community because you are disproportionately creating small businesses and I want to see more success from the ground up.”

Clinton joined Julián Castro and his twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro onstage after the Q&A session. The energetic and enthusiastic audience cheered as Julián, former San Antonio mayor, praised Clinton for her work to improve the livelihood and opportunities for the Latino community. 

Hillary Clinton (right) waves as brothers Julián and Joaquín Castro meet on stage. Photo by Scott Ball.
Hillary Clinton waves as twin brothers Joaquin and Julián Castro meet on stage. Photo by Scott Ball.

“In 2016, the Latino community is going to play a critical role in electing the next president, so you couldn’t have chosen a better city to kick off Latinos for Hillary than right here,” Julián said. He also mentioned Clinton’s grass-roots campaign work in San Antonio in 1972, when she helped register voters for Sen. George McGovern (D-South Dakota) and his ill-fated presidential campaign opposing Republican Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War. “Over the years she always been here for us, and today, we are here for her.”

The Latinos for Hillary campaign hopes to bring in more voters to the polls in anticipation of the Texas Democratic Primary on March 1. Clinton’s performance in the first Democratic debate earned positive reviews and likely eliminated Vice President Joe Biden as a potential candidate. Her chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) a self-described socialist whose straight talk has resonated with voters of all ages and ignited an unexpected  grass-roots challenge to the Clinton campaign. Other Democratic candidates, including former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), are seen as underfunded longshots.

“As far as her campaign goes, San Antonio is an important stop, and I feel that we’re at the epicenter at what the future of politics will be and look like,” state Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123) said of Clinton’s visit to San Antonio. “We’ve risen above the silliness that you’ve seen in the Republican Party. We don’t have the stomach for it, and we don’t have the appetite for it.

“On a personal level, I think that we have an interest in her future running mate if she chooses a certain someone,” Bernal added with a smile.

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Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.