Julián Castro announces 2020 White House bid, swipes at Trump

Former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro (D) announced Saturday that he will launch a bid for the White House in 2020.

"I am a candidate for president of the United States of America," he said during a speech in his hometown of San Antonio, where he served as mayor until 2014.

Castro, 44, had long been rumored to be in the running for president, after sitting out the 2018 Texas gubernatorial and Senate elections.

The former Obama-era housing chief announced last month that he was forming an exploratory committee for a possible 2020 run. If elected, he would be the country's first Hispanic president.

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Castro used his speech Saturday to cast himself as a progressive candidate on issues such as health care and climate change, while blasting President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE over his immigration policies and moves at the border.

"There is a crisis today, it's a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation," he said.

Castro also rebuked the president's attacks on the press, thanking members of the media who attended the rally and calling the press "the friend of the truth" in America.

The former Obama administration official said that if elected his first executive action would be to "recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord," referring to the 2015 deal from which Trump withdrew the U.S.

He also pledged support for other progressive positions, including a "Medicare for all" single-payer health care system as well as universal prekindergarten in the U.S.

Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing Democrats face make-or-break moment on impeachment MORE (D-Texas) acknowledged in introducing his twin brother Saturday that he would join a crowded Democratic field, but pitched him as the best option.

"I know that with your help and support we have the best candidate with the best ideas and the biggest heart," he said.

Republicans were quick to knock the Democratic candidate, issuing a statement calling him a "lightweight."

"Julián Castro has made history by becoming one of the biggest lightweights to ever run for president. He was a weak mayor who couldn’t even handle being HUD secretary. This is obviously just another desperate attempt to become someone else’s running mate," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said.

The timing of Julián Castro's announcement coincided with two important conventions in the Latino political world.

Bold PAC — the Congressional Hispanic Caucus's (CHC) campaign arm — and the Latino Victory Fund hold their conventions in Puerto Rico this weekend. Joaquin Castro is the chairman of the CHC.

The Latino vote's stock in Democratic primaries is up for 2020, as primary date shifts have favored the growing demographic.

Latino voters will play a key role in the early Nevada caucuses, as well as Texas and California — the states with the nation's two biggest Latino populations.

He joins what's likely to be a crowded Democratic presidential field.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates Krystal Ball: Tulsi Gabbard surges, is she the most electable? MORE (D-Hawaii) said Friday that she has decided to run for president in 2020. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE (D-Mass.) announced an exploratory committee for 2020 and others, such as Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (D-Calif.), are expected to jump in soon. 

Julián Castro could face some home-state competition, as former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke says he 'absolutely' plans to stay in politics Krystal Ball: Buttigieg is 'the boomer candidate' Language is a weapon in political warfare — if the media play along MORE (D), who narrowly lost his bid to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement Trump holds chummy meeting with Turkey's Erdoğan Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Erdoğan at White House | Says Turkish leader has 'great relationship with the Kurds' | Highlights from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R) in November, is widely believed to be considering a run for the White House.

– John Bowden contributed

Updated: 2:11 p.m.