Democrats seek party unity as general election looms

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro delivered the keynote address at the 2016 Texas Democratic Convention held Friday and Saturday at the Alamodome blistering the Republican platform. (Photo/Kristian Jaime)

As delegates packed the floor of the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, Democrats from across the state were seeking to establish a unified message.

Amid a number of supporters for former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and former Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, party leadership did its best to present a message that only a unified Democratic party could defeat Donald Trump in November.

Speeches by both Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Castro and his brother and Convention Chair, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) took aim at Donald Trump and incendiary statements about minorities and the recent gun violence in Orlando, Florida.

“We will never go back to the days when being a woman was a pre-existing condition,” said Secretary Castro. “We need to restore the promise of [a better life] that brought generations of immigrants to our shores. We grew up in the public schools of West San Antonio and when  it came time to go to college, both me and my brother got into college.”

Leading up to to the much-anticipated keynote speech, a full slate of state Democrats also threw their support behind Clinton as delegates waived “Castro for VP” signs during the number of floor caucuses throughout the day. Many of the speeches pointed out Trump’s rhetoric as xenophobic and nativist at best.

Ironically, Trump was in San Antonio at a private fundraiser prompting key state Democrats, including Congressman Castro (TX-20), to hold a press conference decrying Trump’s candidacy as little more than a threat to fundamental American values. Speakers cited instances of fear mongering in speeches to influential Republican organizations as proof.

“We [can never] go back to the day when Wall Street could write and its own rules and reward its own failures,” Secretary Castro argued.

Both Secretary Castro and U.S. Rep. Castro (Tx-20) highlighted their Texas roots and a their personal narrative as sons of an immigrant seeking the American dream. Both even went as far as noting that it was progressive social and educational programs that nurtured their career development as lawyers and later as politicians.

Federal programs like Pell grants and Perkins loans were the keys, noted the HUD Secretary, to their success.

“These were folks like my grandmother who left her home in Mexico as an orphaned  young girl who came to live with family here in San Antonio. She lived the immigrant experience as a maid, a cook and a babysitter to provide my mother a better life,” continued Secretary Castro.

At the core of the message was a unified party was the best weapon against the Republican platform. In the months to come, electing Democrats to key local and state positions could make Texas competitive for the party for the first time. Concluding his speech, Secretary Castro draw cheers when pointing out that Texas, and the United States as a whole, has a story rooted in immigrants.

“The American dream is not a sprint or even a marathon. It is a relay where giving the baton of opportunity to our children and grandchildren begins with caring about each other…That has made the American dream possible,” said Secretary Castro.

Many delegates were disappointed as they hoped he would hint at any news on a possible Vice-Presidential nod.  The San Antonio native said only that Hillary Clinton will display the best judgment and direction in her role as the Democratic nominee and hopefully as President of the United States.

“You’ve got an attorney general who’s under indictment and under federal investigation, and a [Texas] Governor who won’t even acknowledge there’s a problem,” Congressman Castro (TX-20) said about the current state of Texas Republican politics. “You have a sitting agriculture commissioner who at taxpayer expense has gone to a rodeo in Louisiana to take a ‘Jesus shot’ in Oklahoma.”

The 2016 Texas Democratic Convention continues through the Saturday as the national convention in Philadelphia will take place on July 25-28.

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