Latino, Democratic mayor speaks at UC Merced GOP event

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette stopped by UC Merced on Friday night to take part in the university’s first Opportunity in Action Summit.

The summit was hosted by the university’s student group, College Republicans, and funded by Associated Students of the University of California, Merced. According to College Republicans, the idea behind Opportunity in Action is to provide valuable insight, build new relationships and foster a community of action.

Castro, 39, was first elected mayor of San Antonio in 2009. He gained national attention when he became the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

As mayor, Castro has focused on raising educational attainment and attracting good-paying jobs for the people of San Antonio, according to his biography. He also has been listed on Time magazine’s “40 under 40” list of rising stars in American politics.

Navarrette, who grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, is a regular contributor on and is the author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson,” in which he chronicles his journey from his working-class beginnings to Harvard.

During the summit, Navarrette questioned Castro on several issues, including job creation, education, immigration, health care and foreign policy.

Castro also commented on what he thinks the Democratic Party is doing right, and what the party needs to work on.

“The Democratic Party has done a good job in becoming the bigger-tent party,” he said. “With Obama, the party has attracted a more diverse crowd and more young people. What the party hasn’t done well is delivering a good and clear message on certain issues. The Republican Party has done well in stoning out the principles.”

Regarding the Affordable Care Act, Castro said he believes the law is a success. “Sure, we’ve seen significant setbacks, and even the president has said himself that the rollout was filled with errors. So I recognize that there have been some issues, but most of the people I’ve talked to have benefited from it.”

Navarrete asked Castro about his stance on foreign policy, to which Castro answered, “The U.S. ought to be the pre-eminent strength in the world. We cannot turn a blind eye to the problems around us.”

When asked to predict who will be on the Democratic ticket for 2016, Castro answered Hillary Clinton, but said he had no idea who would run beside her.

The idea of bringing the two men to Merced came from College Republicans’ External Vice President Martin Chavez.

Chavez met Navarrette a few years back during his participation in the Ivy League Project, a networking program started with the help of Navarrette, in which select students from across the country travel to the East Coast to visit Ivy League universities.

Chavez said that bringing a Democrat to speak for a College Republicans event didn’t receive a good response at first, but after research, the group discovered that Castro would be a good voice for the community to hear.

“We wanted to bring someone who students would enjoy hearing, and someone they might be able to relate to,” Chavez said in an earlier interview. “Castro is a young, charismatic mayor who will most likely move up in his career, so I think it’s great for students to get the opportunity to hear these top-tier speakers.”

Zachary Mondo, president of the College Republicans, said bringing Castro to campus would be a good representation of 21st century politics.

“College Republicans sees the benefits of bipartisanship,” said Mondo. “We want to find common ground and work together; understand and respect each other’s ideas. We can accomplish so much if we just learn to set aside our differences, and if we can do that here, then we don’t see why our nation’s leaders can’t do the same.”