By Jose Miguel Leyva
President Obama has made a wise choice by tapping Julian Castro to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
As the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Castro runs one of the largest cities in the nation and is intimately familiar with urban issues.
Plus, one of his closest friends is Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio who went on to head up HUD under President Bill Clinton. Cisneros will be able to help Castro navigate the bureaucracy.
For Obama and the Democrats, the appointment is a shrewd move. Castro is widely considered one of the top Latinos within the Democratic Party, especially after his stirring 2012 keynote address at the convention.
With immigration reform unlikely to pass, and with Obama under fire for deporting more undocumented immigrants than anyone before him, the Democrats need to shore up their support among Latinos.
Choosing Castro for this cabinet post could do just that. He represents one of the largest Latino populations in the nation, and his personal story resonates. A third-generation Mexican American, he boasts a strong civil rights background. His mother, Maria "Rosie" Castro, was one of the founders of La Raza Unida, the Chicano political party in the 1970s, and she often brought him along to protests.
For Castro himself, the nomination makes a lot of sense.
His political future may be limited in Texas until that state turns blue, which may still be a while. And if he wants to be seriously considered as a vice presidential candidate, he needs to gain experience at the federal level.
Conservatives are moving quickly to try to discredit Castro. They recognize that their own Latino candidates do not have the potential appeal that he does.
But they need to be careful. By trying to scuff up Castro, they could further alienate Latinos from the Republican Party.
That hasn’t stopped them before, and it may not stop them now.
But Castro has Obama’s support, and it’s likely that his nomination will go through.
Then the nation itself will be able to get a close-up look at this rising Latino star.
José Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and journalist living in El Paso, TX.