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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 TrumpDOJ asks Supreme Court to revive Boston Marathon bomber death sentence, in break with Biden vow Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting DOJ tells media execs that reporters were not targets of investigations 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 CastroTexas walkout sets up epic battle over voting rights Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department USAID 'redirects' El Salvador funds from government to civil society 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 GabbardTulsi Gabbard on Chicago mayor's decision to limit media interviews to people of color: 'Anti-white racism' Fox News says network and anchor Leland Vittert have 'parted ways' New co-chairs named for congressional caucus for millennials MORE (D-Hawaii) said Friday that she has decided to run for president in 2020. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAdams, Garcia lead in NYC mayor's race: poll Exclusive: Democrat exploring 'patriot tax' on multimillionaires' wealth McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (D-Mass.) announced an exploratory committee for 2020 and others, such as Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris highlights COVID-19 vaccination safety, efficacy in SC event to kick off tour Kamala Harris is still not ready for primetime (much less 2024) Lara Trump calls on Americans at border to 'arm up and get guns and be ready' 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 considering Texas governor bid: report O'Rourke clarifies remarks, leaves door open to gubernatorial bid O'Rourke says he's not planning on run for Texas governor MORE (D), who narrowly lost his bid to unseat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R) in November, is widely believed to be considering a run for the White House.

– John Bowden contributed

Updated: 2:11 p.m.