In this Jan. 23, 2014, file photo, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro speaks about President Barack Obama's signature health care law at the Families USA's 19th Annual Health Action Conference in Washington. The White House said Thursday, May 22, 2014, President Barack Obama intends to nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to become housing secretary and will tap Shaun Donovan, the current housing secretary, to run the budget office. / Charles Dharapak AP
WASHINGTON - With the announcement of his latest Cabinet shuffle on Friday, President Obama rewarded a longtime administration loyalist and raised the profile of one of the Democratic party's rising stars.
Obama made it official in a White House event that he's nominating Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to serve as his next budget director, a position that will place Donovan in the thick of the fiscal battles during the last lap of this administration.
If confirmed by the Senate, Donovan, who has served as HUD secretary since the start of the Obama administration, will replace Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whom Obama picked to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
With his pick of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to replace Donovan at HUD, Obama has offered a national platform for the 39-year-old politician who last year was elected to his third term leading the nation's seventh largest city.
Castro, whose identical twin is Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, has seen his stock rise in Democratic circles in recent years. If confirmed, he follows a path blazed by former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros, who became the first Latino to run HUD after he was tapped by President Clinton.
Castro emerged on the national political scene when he was picked by Obama in 2012 to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, becoming the first Latino to get the honor.
"The first time most Americans heard this man speak was when he gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention almost two years ago," Obama recalled Friday. "And they saw this young guy - pretty good speaker, not bad looking - talk about how America is the only place where his story could even be possible."
Political analysts say that the mayor, who was elected to his third term in 2013, is being groomed as a potential vice presidential candidate in 2016 or a run for governor in Texas in 2018, if Democratic nominee Wendy Davis is unable to beat Republican nominee Greg Abbott in the November gubernatorial election.
"I think the vice presidential position is more attractive to him than the governorship," said Henry Flores, a political scientist at St. Mary's University in San Antonio who has known the mayor and his brother since they were boys. "I think he also has the experience and agenda on housing that he can push for the president over these next two years and establish the contacts in Washington he needs to establish for whatever is going to come next for him."
Obama touted Castro's success in providing San Antonio residents with affordable housing and attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to the city. The mayor spearheaded the "Decade of Downtown," a program that has encouraged inner-city investment and spurred plans for the construction of more than 2,400 housing units in central San Antonio by the end of 2014.
He also has been lauded for pushing San Antonio to be a center for the tech and clean-energy industries.
Castro, who told USA TODAY following his DNC speech that he planned to stay in San Antonio until he finished his third term, resisted an earlier push by Obama to join his administration as Transportation secretary.
While the midterm elections are still months away and the 2016 presidential race is only beginning to take shape, taking over HUD could help Castro, said Raj Goyle, an Obama campaign bundler and former Harvard classmate of the mayor.
"Certainly, I think he'll be a legitimate option for Democrats, whether he's on a national ticket or is running for office back home in Texas or continues in an appointed position in a Democratic administration," said Goyle, a former representative in the Kansas legislature. "I think the sky is the limit for Julian."
There is no missing the similarities in the personal narratives of Castro and Obama, who delivered his own highly touted keynote speech as an Illinois state senator to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Both men were raised by single mothers who nurtured them and shaped their world views. They both attended elite colleges as undergraduates - Stanford for Castro and Occidental College and Columbia University for Obama - before earning law degrees at Harvard.
Castro paid tribute to his city and family. He and his twin brother grew up in a working-class Mexican-American neighborhood on San Antonio's West Side. They were raised by their single mother, a prominent Latino rights activist, and their grandmother, who crossed the border from Mexico as a child.
"I stand on the shoulders of so many folks over the generations who have worked very hard and dreamed the American dream and have reached it," Castro said. "And I feel blessed to have reached it as well."
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Obama taps rising Democratic star for Cabinet