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Democratic Candidate Julián Castro Talks With Voters About His Climate Policies


Julian Castro has been talking to a lot of potential voters. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary is one among several Democrats running for president. And he's spoken during debates, candidate forums, meet-and-greets. And earlier this week, he sat down with two voters in his hometown of San Antonio. It was a conversation moderated by Lulu Garcia-Navarro as part of our NPR series Off Script. Lulu's here in the studio to talk more about it.



CORNISH: Tell us about these voters and what they wanted to talk to Castro about.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. Well, they're Democratic voters, right? So undoing some of the Trump administration's immigration policies was obviously top of mind for both of them, especially for Dani Marrero Hi. She's a 25-year-old immigration rights organizer. But our second voter, Alston Beinhorn, also wanted to ask about climate change. This was very important to him. He's 68. He retired as a banker. He's also a rancher in southern Texas. And the way he described the impact of rising temperatures on his livestock was striking.


ALSTON BEINHORN: Well, you know, climate change is not an - probably an immediate issue for a lot of people, apparently. But in my business, being outdoors, raising livestock - just this past August, there was one day when it wasn't above 100 degrees. The point is is that this is unsustainable for livestock, for horses, for chickens, even for people working outdoors. And I think a lot of people who don't work outdoors don't - maybe don't realize that as much. And it's here now.

This is not an easy issue because it involves taking some short-term economic pain, right? And there's going to be some policies that are restrictive in terms of what people, you know, can do or should do with the environment, including probably cattle, which are part of the methane problem. You know, how can you as a presidential candidate enlist the support of voters to change their minds, to do something immediately that's not really in their interest?

JULIAN CASTRO: Well, it's a powerful reminder that in so many different ways, we have an opportunity to confront this climate crisis. And I put out a plan a few weeks ago on how I would do that as president, beginning with the first day in office recommitting to the Paris climate accord and then setting a goal of getting to net-zero carbon emissions in the United States by 2045 and leading so that, at latest, we can get there around the world by 2050.

The good news is I actually - when I get out there these days, whether it's in Iowa or here in Texas, there's - especially among young people, there's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and really resolve to do something about climate change. So I actually believe that we have a strong movement there to pressure the politicians in Washington, D.C., especially these folks that are representing swing congressional districts and swing states.

CORNISH: Now how did Alston Beinhorn take this, these reassurances, essentially, that Castro would be able to push the U.S. into swifter action on climate change?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, Alston agreed with the plans in Castro's platform, but he didn't seem, I have to say, completely sold on the idea that Castro's optimism can actually translate into real action or at least less polarization on climate change and other policies. Here's how that went.


BEINHORN: What would really help me - I mean, if you were the Democratic, you know, nominee, I think when you just go back in history look at our most successful, best presidents, and they had the ability to inspire people to do things that maybe they didn't really want to do because it was good for America. You know, how would you as the Democratic nominee bring that out of people? I guess what I'm talking about is appealing to their better angels...


BEINHORN: ...If you know what I mean.

CASTRO: No, you're - I think you're right. It's also - it's become harder over the years to appeal to this common sense of national purpose and going in the same direction. But I believe that we can do it. And climate change and immigration are both good opportunities to do that, where people can see a value for all of us as we tackle the climate crisis in creating jobs and opportunity for millions of people in a clean energy economy.

When it comes to immigration, you know, feeling better as a nation morally about how we're treating human beings, and then also recognizing, as I laid out, for instance, with the case for Social Security, that all of us can win if we harness the potential of immigrants. I think we can find these commonalities in these issues and seek to bring people together and inspire people around positive change.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: These are undecided voters, right? So the big question was, were they convinced after having an hour talking with Julian Castro? And Alston Beinhorn told me he's still not entirely sure that the secretary has, quote, "the right stuff to inspire voters." But he did concede that's a hard thing to know until the election results are in.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

Thanks so much.


CORNISH: Lulu spoke to Democratic presidential candidate and former HUD secretary Julian Castro, along with undecided voters. That was earlier this week in San Antonio. Now you can watch their entire discussion at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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