The National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s push for Obama administration official Julian Castro to be picked as a vice presidential candidate is generating a mixed reaction among Latino leaders.
The reaction generally is falling along party lines.
Supporters of Castro, who is U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and former mayor of San Antonio, say the Democratic rising star deserves to be considered for a top slot in the presidential election, and praise the chamber president, Javier Palomarez, for endorsing him over the weekend.
“What they’re voicing is what we know: Julian is a proven leader,” said Cristobal Alex, the president of the Latino Victory Project, a group founded by actress Eva Longoria and Henry Munoz, the Democratic Party’s finance chair, to raise the number of Latino political candidates. “He was the executive of one of our nation’s greatest cities for three terms. He put his own political career in jeopardy to pass a tax increase to fund pre-K education.”
“He can win the Latino vote, especially millennial Latinos.”
Alfonso Aguilar, president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an advocacy group, said he objects to the chamber’s endorsement of any political candidate.
“The Hispanic chamber is a non-partisan organization,” said Aguilar, who is supporting the campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. “That’s a reason not to get involved” in endorsements.
“You’re saying you’re an organization that represents Hispanic businesses across the country, many owned by Republicans and Independents and people without any political agenda,” Aguilar said. “It’s putting at risk the reputation of the organization. Would they endorse somebody like [New Mexico] Gov. Susana Martinez as a vice presidential candidate?”
Martinez is a Republican and was often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2012 when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the GOP presidential nominee.
Aguilar said that beyond his objection of endorsements by the chamber, he holds Castro in a less lofty light than the business organization.
“He has no experience to be a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Aguilar said. “His performance at HUD has been irrelevant.”
Palomarez balked at the criticism, characterizing it as predictable whining by people who did not have one of their favorites endorsed.
Palomarez, who also is from Texas, said that it is precisely fitting for a business group to get behind Castro, who has been a supporter of small businesses.
“We look at track records, at a history of having supported small businesses,” Palomarez said. “Julian has that track record. If Julian was a Republican, and had the same track record, I’d support him as well. He has a long, proven track record of a) supporting small business, b) Hispanic small business and c) the Hispanic community in general.”
Julian Castro has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and is campaigning for her. Clinton indicated last year that Castro is impressive and she would consider him for a position of some kind if she were elected president.
Palomarez said his backing of Castro did not mean he also is endorsing Clinton.
The chamber head told Politico. “I’ve had conversations with other candidates running for the presidency and they’re [interested in adding Castro to their ticket]. We should wait and see how things land.”
He said to Fox News Latino that there are qualities he likes in GOP presidential candidates, as well. He said that while he disagrees with some of Sen. Ted Cruz’s views on immigration, for instance, he likes his support for business.
Cruz for quite a while backed quintupling the number of visas in the H1-B program, which aims to bring in highly skilled workers.
Palomarez said: “For us as a business organization, that makes perfect sense.”
(Cruz has recently amended his public call for an expansion of H1-B visas, calling for a hold on the program so that abuses of it by employers can be examined. He also is advocating that several other safeguards be put in place in the H1-B visa system to make sure it is being used as originally intended.)
Castro, a graduate of Harvard Law School, rose to national prominence when he was chosen to deliver the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
The chamber has been holding a series of question and answer forums with presidential candidates from both parties.