On the main stage at City Summit in San Antonio, in front of nearly 4,000 local leaders, two 2020 presidential candidates shared their plans to strengthen local communities in America. Continuing the National League of Cities’ 95-year legacy of non-partisanship, 2020 presidential candidates from both sides of the aisle participated. Moderated by Kim Hart, Cities Editor of Axios, the Presidential Forum featured Julian Castro, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and former Mayor of San Antonio, and Joe Walsh, former Congressman from Illinois.
The candidates addressed the audience on how, if elected, they would work to improve the lives of our nation’s communities and residents. Former Congressman Joe Walsh was first on stage. A Republican running against incumbent Donald Trump, Congressman Walsh made it clear that infrastructure was his top priority.
“Prior generations risked their lives to give us our roads and bridges and pipes and sewers. They’re falling apart. We’ve got to begin rebuilding our infrastructure immediately – that’s why I’m running for president.”
Additionally, Congressman Walsh is looking to shift the culture and accountability in Washington, D.C., citing local government’s ability to work beyond partisanship as an example. When asked about reducing gun violence, a pillar of the recently released Leading Together 2020 Cities Agenda, Congressman Walsh explained his policy and plan around expanding universal background checks.
“Look I’m a big second Amendment guy, but it just makes sense to me, that if I go across the street and buy a gun, I have to have a background check. If I buy a gun online, I have to have a background check. If I go to a gun show, I have to have a background check.”
Julian Castro was the second candidate to the take the stage. The former HUD Secretary was right at home at City Summit – Secretary Castro was mayor of San Antonio from 2009-2014 before serving the Obama administration. Amongst local elected officials, Castro was adamant on the role of city leaders next Fall and the importance of city priorities being uplifted to the federal level.
“People know that local government is where things actually get done. Y’all are at the nexus of public service and productivity. So, it’s no surprise there’s a number of former mayors in this race.”
The conversation turned to housing and homelessness and the Secretary shared personal stories of his upbringing in San Antonio. Connecting directly to what keeps local leaders and residents up at night, Secretary Castro made it clear how important housing instability was to him and his campaign.
“I see housing as a human right. I want everyone to have a safe, decent, affordable place to live.”
The Presidential Forum strongly positioned local voices to be prominent in the 2020 election cycle. The issues and priorities of our nation’s cities, towns and villages align with the visions of the candidates hoping to be President in 2020. Local leaders are seeking partnership, and the Forum offered the first view of how our nation can lead together.
About the Author: Rohan Narayanan is the Senior Specialist, Marketing & Communications for Federal Advocacy at the National League of Cities.