Julian Castro, former Obama official, forms 2020 presidential exploratory committee

Julian Castro, former President Barack Obama’s housing chief, has launched a 2020 presidential exploratory committee.

“Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness. We’re ready to keep our promises. And we’re not going to wait. We’re going to work,” Castro, 44, said in a video. “That’s why I’m exploring a candidacy for president of the United States in 2020.”

An exploratory committee usually is a formality before a candidate launches a presidential campaign. It legally allows potential candidates to begin raising money.

The former San Antonio mayor said his official decision will be announced on Jan. 12. In the meantime, he encouraged voters to visit his website to receive email updates.

The early jump gives Castro an advantage as bigger name Democrats have continued to be floated as potential 2020 candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Former Vice President Joe Biden and outgoing Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who excited donors in his close race against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz this year, have also been rumored to be considering presidential bids.

"I'm also very mindful, especially now for the Latino community, that there's a particular meaning to my candidacy."

— Julian Castro

Castro would be among the youngest candidates in the field and the most prominent Latino. He told The Associated Press he plans to consult leaders in his party but hasn’t spoken to Obama yet.

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For Castro, running for president would fulfill a destiny that Democrats have projected since he was elected San Antonio mayor at 34, followed by his star-making turn as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

He is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and son of a Latina activist. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a Democratic congressman from Texas. The brothers were raised by a single mother who taught them to “make your future happen,” the former mayor said in his video.

Castro told The Associated Press the Latino community has been treated “like a piñata” under President Trump.

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"I'm also very mindful, especially now for the Latino community, that there's a particular meaning to my candidacy," Castro said. "We can't go through the 2020 cycle with nobody on that stage because of what's happened over the last couple of years."

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said there is no "bigger lightweight in the 2020 field than Julian Castro" in a statement provided to Fox News.

"His mayoral job was largely ceremonial, he was in totally over his head at HUD, and no, he doesn't even know Spanish," Ahrens said.

So far, the only declared 2020 Democratic candidate is Maryland Rep. John Delaney. Sanders, who ran in 2016, has said he will “probably run” if he believes he's the best choice to defeat Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.