Man on a Fast Track’

Photo: Courtesy Julian Castro

Julian Castro knows a thing or two about being first. He beat his identical twin, Joaquin, out of the womb by a minute. At Stanford, the brothers won ASSU senatorships, garnering an identical number of votes (811) to secure a tidy tie for first place. And on May 5, Julián defeated five candidates to win a seat on the San Antonio city council. The 26-year-old has become the youngest council member in city history, edging out former mayor and Housing and Urban Development secretary Henry Cisneros, who won his council post in 1975 when he was all of 27.

Castro grew up in the constituency he represents—District 7, a precinct on the city’s west side that’s home to 115,000 residents. The population is 70 percent Hispanic and includes a large number of senior citizens, whose support helped Castro win 61 percent of the vote. With its juxtaposition of upper- and lower-income neighborhoods and recent influx of new residents, the district is a microcosm of San Antonio, which is experiencing growing pains.

“The single most important issue is our economy, which has always been tourism- and military-based,” says Castro. “We’re a stepchild of Austin, which is booming.” His campaign platform focused on welcoming revitalization by way of new technology and aviation jobs while still preserving the character of older neighborhoods. He also pushed for accountability at City Hall, partly in light of recent city contract scandals.

Many locals have become disillusioned with their civic government, says Joe Alderete, who was the first council member to represent District 7 when the city opted for district elections in 1977. But “with Julián and his credentials and his youth,” he says, “they think maybe it will get better.”

Castro makes $20 a week as a council member. The Harvard Law grad probably makes a little more than that as a litigator at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Between the two, he figures he’ll be clocking 100-hour weeks.

His family of confidants should provide some support. There is, of course, Joaquin—his campaign treasurer, adviser and housemate—who is physically distinguishable from Julián only by the amount of hair gel he uses (more). There’s also his mother, Rosie, whose decades of grassroots work on behalf of San Antonio’s women and poor provided inspiration and a certain amount of name recognition among voters. She worked at City Hall when the twins were kids, and their after-school visits made an impression.

“We have people who still remember us today,” Julián says. “Those city employees stay there forever.”

The same might not be said about Castro. In its endorsement of his candidacy, the San Antonio Express-News praised him as a “man on a fast track” (although one who is “pleasantly without pretentiousness”). “I want to continue to become an excellent lawyer,” he says. “But at the same time, I’ve never considered the office of governor to be impossible.”