Obama Picks Latino Mayor For Cabinet Slot

President Barack Obama will nominate an inexperienced Hispanic politician to a major cabinet post Friday, marking another effort to boost his sagging support among Latino voters.

He’ll use a White House ceremony at 3:35 pm to nominate Julian Castro, the largely-symbolic mayor of San Antonio in Texas, as the new head of federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

San Antonio is run by a city manager, who is picked by the city council. As the symbolic mayor, Castro is paid just $4,000 a year, or just over 1 percent of the $335,000 paid the city manager.

In contrast, HUD has an annual budget of roughly $47 billion. HUD’s budget and operations has to be diligently managed because it cash flows to many scandal-prone cities and towns, property developers and activist groups.

During the nomination process, Castro’s career as a personal-injury lawyer in Texas is likely to be probed by media outlets and Republican politicians for potential scandals.

But Democrats are determined to promote Castro as a potential Latino leader in the Democratic Party, which has few Latinos in senior leadership outside the 25-member Hispanic Caucus in Congress.

In contrast, the list of Latino GOP politicians include two governors — Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Brian Sandoval in Nevada — plus additional cabinet members and and legislators, such as Sen. Ted Cruz.

In as late-night press release, Obama played up Castro’s record. “In five short years, Mayor Castro has made significant progress in San Antonio and put the city and its citizens on a new trajectory,” said the statement.

“He has been a leader among mayors in terms of implementing housing and economic development programs and under his leadership San Antonio has been highly successful at lifting educational attainment and spurring job creation,” he said.

But Castro’s accomplishments are so few that Obama’s short statement also lauded Castro for building “good relationships with other mayors.”

“The President is excited about the Mayor bringing his practical, on-the-ground success to scale at the Federal level,” said the statement.

The housing department distributes are huge amount of funds to state and local governments and non-government groups. That flood of money has eased corruption at the department. For example, President George W. Bush’s third HUD secretary, Alphonso Jackson resigned in 2008 amid a scandal over favoritism.

Bush’s first HUD secretary was Mel Martínez, who later was elected to a Senate seat in Florida.

Follow Neil on Twitter