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Castro makes case for president at Orpheum

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro shares his platform with several dozen Central Iowans.

Like his colleagues in the packed Democratic presidential field, Julián Castro is working to break out from the crowd and convince Iowa Democrats to caucus for him in February 2020.

The former United States Housing and Urban Development secretary and San Antonio mayor shared his platform at the Black Box theater of the IVCCD Orpheum Theater Center Tuesday evening. Education was one area of emphasis.

“We have to up our game,” Castro said. “That means universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, because we know if you have a dollar to invest in education, your dollar is best spent early.”

He said such a program would get kids on the right track toward a fruitful education before moving into the post-secondary world.

“On top of that, my education plan calls for improving K-12 education,” Castro said. “Every teacher would get at least a $2,000 tax credit … that would scale up to as much as $10,000 according to the percentage of students in the school where that teacher teaches that are on Free and Reduced Lunch.”

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS – Audience members listen intently as Castro makes his case for president in the Black Box theater of the Orpheum Tuesday evening.

The federal Free and Reduced-price Lunch program is used by many school districts, including Marshalltown Schools, as an indicator of poverty among students. In Marshalltown the number of students eligible for the program is about 70 percent.

Castro said he also supports tuition-free education at community colleges, state universities, and job training and certification programs.

“Some people say, when I say that, they’re like ‘Well, you’re just talking about free stuff,'” he said. “This is a national imperative because we need to compete against other places around the world.”

Another major point Castro discussed was health care.

“In many smaller towns and rural communities, their hospitals are closing, or closing in-patient psychiatric units or OB/GYN,” he said.

That statement was met with audible agreement among some in the audience. The local UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown hospital recently announced the closing of its OB/GYN unit. That follows closure announcements for the hospital’s intensive care unit and cath lab in 2018.

Castro said he supports universal health care coverage, but not the “Medicare fo All” style of plan some of his Democratic rivals support.

“I want to make sure we strengthen Medicare for the people who are on it and then we make it available to everyone who wants it in this country,” he said. “I also believe that if you have a private health insurance plan and it’s solid, it’s strong, you want to hold onto it, you should be able to do that. We can do both of those things.”

Castro said insurance and pharmaceutical companies’ profit motive should not prevent people from getting health care. He also said he wants to expand mental health care, particularly in rural areas.

Another issue Castro spoke at length about was immigration reform.

“I agree that we always need a secure border,” he said. “But we can do that with common sense and compassion for people instead of cruelty. We don’t need to put people in cages … We don’t need to separate little children from their parents. We don’t need to scapegoat immigrants.”

Castro said he would work to implement an system where undocumented immigrants in the country get a path to citizenship as long as they haven’t committed a serious crime.

He also said he wants to reform the legal immigration system because it can take several years to enter the U.S. that way. Castro said he would also meet with leaders in countries like Honduras, Guatemala and others to address the issues pushing immigrants toward the United States in the first place.

Castro talked about his time as HUD secretary during the Obama administration, including that he oversaw a large budget and nationwide programming to address inequalities.

“I’m running for president because I believe that everyone counts in this country, that we need a president with a new vision and good energy,” he said.

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Contact Adam Sodders at 641-753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com