Texas Democrats hope Julian Castro can turn the state blue

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramSeptember 6, 2012 

LuAnne Leonard hopes the nation is getting a new impression of Texas.

For so long, she said, Republican Gov. Rick Perry has been the face of the state, especially during his failed presidential bid that ended early this year.

But now that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro captured national attention for his Democratic National Convention keynote address this week, Leonard, a 45-year-old delegate from Cleburne, hopes people are looking at Texas in a different light.

"Perry became a national joke during his presidential bid," said Leonard, a paralegal and secretary for the Johnson County Democratic Party. "[Now] the nation is getting to know Julian Castro the way Texas Dems have always known him. We are excited about his bright future representing the Democratic Party on a national level.

"Julian Castro has put Texas front and center at the DNC," she said. "The buzz is his bright future."

More than two dozen North Texans are among the thousands of delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week.

While they traditionally find themselves with less-than-prime seating and hotel arrangements -- because party officials believe the state as a whole likely will go to the Republican presidential candidate in November -- Texas delegates nonetheless found themselves getting extra attention this week.

During Castro's speech especially, delegates said, television cameras were frequently turned on them. And they said a number of reporters approached them for interviews after the speech.

"We got a ton of attention," said Celia Morgan, a 27-year-old single mother and shift supervisor at a coffee shop in Arlington. "Texas Democrats swelled with pride during his speech, many of us misty-eyed as he spoke to and of his mother. We were loud and proud in support of Julian Castro ... and we feel he'll be a Democrat to watch as Texas begins a shift in support."

This week, several Texas delegates picked up everything from colds to blisters, not to mention the middle-of-the-night wake-up call when a false fire alarm sounded at the hotel where they are staying, during their convention experience.

Shandra Jackson, an Arlington paralegal and single mother, said the overall atmosphere is different at the convention than it was four years ago.

"Everything is wonderful," said Jackson. "I was curious about the energy level, whether it would be comparable to 2008, and found that it is far more intense. It is incredible."

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