The likely reason is the keynote speaker: San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, the youngest mayor of a top 50 American city and considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. Many have described him as “the Latino Obama,” because of the belief he has the potential to become the first Latino president of the United States.
Latino Democrats from across the state plan to head to Columbus for Friday night’s grassroots political fundraiser, being hosted by US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern (D-Catawba Island), who also serves in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Robert Torres, Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce executive director, is working behind the scenes to draw additional Latino Democrats across the state to attend Castro event. Lucas County Auditor Anita López will be among the local Latinos in attendance.
“The appearance of Mayor Castro, is unprecedented in our State's political history,” said Torres. “This past election in which Latinos and their interests and concerns got more attention than ever—in the media, and by conservative and liberal politicians alike—brought Ohio’s Latino vote to the national dialogue. Both political parties, their candidates and surrogates, made numerous appearances to this state. This visit underscores that Latino voters in Ohio are poised to play a major role in future electoral races throughout the state.”
“Mayor Julian Castro's appearance at the Democratic Party's Legacy dinner is significant because it shows the important economic and political role that Latinos have in Ohio and throughout the nation,” added Isabel Framer, a Northeast Ohio Latina and Democratic activist, who plans to attend. “It is great to see the Ohio Democratic Party realizing that a national Latino leader like him can be a big draw to a fundraiser. I was amazed and at the same time excited and proud to hear that tickets are sold out.”
The Cleveland-based Hispanic Roundtable, through Torres and an organizing committee, already has extended an invitation to Castro to make a second trip to Ohio at its “Convención 2013” event in October. The group hopes to follow-up in person Friday.
“Last year's presidential election was a stepping stone for the Ohio Democratic Party and this state is now positioned to gain the attention of future presidential aspirants,” said Torres. “Rather, this visit by Mayor Castro will be a stepping stone for Ohio’s Latino community, for Latino elected leadership, and for the rights of immigrants and Latinos.”
“I see it more as recognition by him of the important contributions of Latinos to the Democratic Party in Ohio and the economy of our state,” said Ms. Framer. “Only he would know if he wants bigger, more national prominence but coming to Ohio, an historic swing state, as well as building ties with other states, is certainly a stepping stone. I would love to see Julian move towards bigger things politically. He is certainly laying the groundwork.”
Castro was first elected mayor of San Antonio in 2009 at the age of 34. He easily won re-election two years later with 82 percent of the vote. He is the fifth Latino mayor of that city. His political career started when he was elected as the youngest city councilman in San Antonio’s history in 2001 at age 26. Four years later, he lost his first bid for mayor. Castro served as a co-chairman of President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.
Castro has received national attention and recognition for his focus on raising the bar of his city’s economy and education. In 2010, the city opened Café College, a one-stop center offering guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation. 5,000 took advantage of the effort in the first year, leading to a rapid expansion of the center. He also led a referendum to increase the sales tax in order to offer full-day prekindergarten to 22,000 four-year olds over the next eight years.
Castro served as the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the first Latino chosen for that role in the party’s history. The Roman Catholic is a 1996 graduate of Stanford University, where he majored in political science and communications. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2000.
Castro has a twin brother, Joaquin, who serves as a state representative in the Texas legislature and is running for a seat in US Congress. He is a San Antonio native who is married to an elementary school teacher. The couple has a four-year old daughter.
Castro’s mother Rosie served as a leader of the La Raza Unida movement, which sought to defend the civil rights of Mexican-Americans in Texas in the 1970s. Organizers of the group believed the effort would help boost the Chicano movement in Texas and become more influential in politics.
“I had the privilege of meeting both Joaquin and Julian at the Democratic National Convention, and to hear Julian's keynote remarks,” said Ms. Framer. “Julian is an inspirational Latino that I believe can further awaken the Latino electorate which will lead to more influence for Latinos in this country. His personal story of humble beginnings and success reflects the American dream.”
“Mayor Castro’s visit can help redefine the politics of Ohio’s future opportunities for Latinos,” emphasized Torres. “My hope is that Castro will help to define Ohio Democratic principles that will oppose Arizona-like legislation, avoid unnecessary English-only legislation, advocate for DREAMers and immigration reform.”
The Legacy Dinner serves as a showcase for up-and-coming Democratic political candidates, many of whom plan to run for state-wide or local office in 2014. The dinner also honors Democratic activists—and there are many who contributed to President Barack Obama’s re-election last year, when he carried swing-state Ohio by winning over the Latino vote.
Tables for the event already are sold out at the Downtown Columbus Anthenaeum, 32 N. 4th St. The standing-room-only tickets are going for $30 apiece. The event includes a 6 p.m. private reception, followed at 7 p.m. by dinner and the evening’s program.
Standing room tickets still can be ordered using a credit card at www.ohiodems.org, emailing [email protected], or by calling 614.341.6911.