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Jody Joseph Marmel and Julie Tereshchuk A Politico to Watch Written by: Jody Joseph Marmel and Julie Tereshchuk
Issue: March 2013 | NSIDE Business
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Meet Texas State Rep. Joaquin Castro, a star on the rise.

It’s often said in Texas that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few days. It will change. Apparently, the same can be said for Texas congressional districts. 

Joaquin Castro, state representative, is an intelligent, worldly, innovative and wonderful leader in his district. And just as he was planning to run against his Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the weather changed.

The day before Thanksgiving, three federal judges in San Antonio created another new District 35 – the one Castro was planning to represent. The day after we digested our turkey dinner, Charlie Gonzalez announced that he would not seek re-election in District 20. That is when Castro decided to enter that race instead.

Representing District 20 for 50 years, Henry B. Gonzalez held the seat from 1961 through 1999, and his son, Charlie Gonzalez, became pilot of the district in 1999. It was a huge surprise to everyone when the younger Gonzalez made this decision. 

Since Castro grew up in this very district and lives there now, it was a perfect fit. In actuality, it is a dream district for him and the citizens who live there. 

That Saturday in Guadalupe Plaza, Castro announced his candidacy for that seat. On Monday, he signed the filing papers. It is official, and the campaign is going strong.

Even though the district zoning has changed, Castro still offers a thoughtful breakdown of the compatible industries he would focus on. First up: clean energy.

“Austin Energy has become a leader in its use of clean energy sources, and San Antonio’s energy company – CPS Energy – is also headed down that path,” Castro explains, citing CPS’ planned 400-megawatt solar project. “It will likely be the nation’s largest solar project.”

Other major industrial pairings he sees synergy between are Austin’s high-tech industry paired with San Antonio’s cyber security industry, and the Alamo City’s medical and bio-sciences industry, together with Austin’s proposed medical school and teaching hospital.

Currently and proudly representing a portion of Bexar County in the Texas House of Representatives, he extends his plans to go further than District 20 in November 2012. 

Having received state and national attention as a political rising star in the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News, Texas Monthly, Latina magazine and numerous other publications, Castro’s political career is growing beyond Texas soil. But his loyalty, business acumen and heart belong to Texas first and foremost. The political future for Castro seems endless.

Big plans? Yes. But Castro’s used to setting his sights high – and meeting his targets, whether personal or professional. He’s regarded as a rising star on the Democratic political landscape. (In July 2011, named him one of the top 50 politicos to watch in the nation.) 

Then there’s the connection he has with city leadership in San Antonio. It’s an easily won argument that one of the only rivals Castro has within the up-and-coming Democratic Hispanic ranks is his identical twin brother, Julian, who is now serving his second term as mayor of San Antonio. 

Second-generation Mexican Americans, the brothers grew up on San Antonio’s West Side. 

“It’s the kind of place where you find very humble, very hardworking people who have an incredible faith in their families and an incredible faith in their future – people who are really very much the salt of the earth,” Castro says.

The Castro family’s history in the United States began nearly 100 years ago when Victoria Castro came to Texas as a young orphan. She often worked two and three jobs at a time to be able to give her daughter (Castro’s mother) and her grandchildren a better chance in life. 

“My grandmother only made it to the third grade,” Castro explains. “She had to drop out and help her family scrape by … She never owned a house or a car. She never had a 401(k) plan or a retirement plan. Still, I believe that she achieved her own American dream because she made it possible for us to achieve ours.”

A proud product of the public school system who finished high school a year early, Castro, together with his brother, headed first to Stanford (class of 1996) and then to Harvard Law (class of 2000). 

“From the age of 5 on, I wanted to be a lawyer,” he recalls. Returning to San Antonio after Harvard, he was 28 when he got elected to the Texas Legislature, and he is now serving his fifth term as a state representative for District 125.

As vice chairman of the Higher Education Committee and Democratic floor leader in the Texas House, Castro has worked to restore funding to critical health care and education programs, and has pushed for mental health, teen pregnancy and juvenile justice reform. 

(Building on his work in the Texas House, his congressional bid calls for an “infrastructure of opportunity with good public schools, great universities and a sound health care system.”)

Castro’s respect for public service also developed early, and was deeply influenced by his parents’ involvement in political movements and civic causes. His father, Jesse Guzman, a retired teacher, and his mother, Rosie Castro, a renowned community activist, parted when he was 8, yet instilled in him a deep appreciation for the democratic process and the importance of serving one’s community. 

“I grew up in a household where our parents taught us that you could do good things in people’s lives through public service, and that when the government works right, it can do good things for people in their lives,” Castro says. “I still believe that today.”

His parents also instilled a strong value for education, says Castro, who has gone on to create the Trailblazers College Tour, which raises money to send underprivileged students on college visits. 

He also founded SA Reads, San Antonio’s largest literacy campaign and book drive, which has distributed more than 200,000 books to at least 150 schools and shelters throughout the city.

Away from their political lives, Castro and his brother are small business owners who have established a private litigation practice together in San Antonio. 

“It’s been wonderful essentially sharing a parallel life with someone,” Castro says of his twin. “We shared a room for 17 years, then we went off to the same college and the same law school.”

Despite their shared business interests, their personal lives have diverged in recent years, as Julian is now married and has a young daughter. 

“I tell people I am two steps behind him still,” Castro jokes. “I’m not married yet, and I don’t have kids. So I have some catching up to do … He is a minute older though, so it’s OK.”

Castro has always liked to challenge himself. Now that drive to accomplish his goal may take him to Washington. Once there, what could the Texans he seeks to represent expect of their representative? 

“I would like to be a strong voice for economic development in San Antonio, and eventually be a bridge builder with Austin and the corridor cities,” Castro says. “In me and in San Antonio’s mayor, they will find eager partners in developing our region and trying to turn it into our nation’s most economically powerful.”

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