Castro brothers light a fire under Ohio Democrats ahead of Election Day

As part of her closing effort to win the presidential race in Ohio, Hillary Clinton called on a couple of Democratic political stars from Texas — the Castro twins of San Antonio.

HUD Secretary Julián (l.) and twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, campaign for Hillary Clinton at a Columbus, Ohio polling location on November 6, 2016.
HUD Secretary Julián (l.) and twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, campaign for Hillary Clinton at a Columbus, Ohio polling location on November 6, 2016.  Abby Livingston

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Not everyone among the thousands of people waiting in a snaking line knew who the Castro brothers from Texas were. 

But a lot of them did. 

It was a shocking surprise for some early Ohio voters to see the twin brothers from Texas — Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro — encouraging them to vote for their party's nominee, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

"Are they famous?" a Republican candidate for local judge wondered out loud, observing people jumping out of line to get their photos taken with the twins. 

To be sure, most of the star-struck could not tell which twin is which, but they were excited nonetheless. 

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"Hey. Hey!" asked a middle-aged woman jumping from her camping chair in the parking lot. "Is that a Castro?" 

This scene marked the next-to-last stop on an approximately 3,500-mile campaigning junket stretching from Nevada to Colorado to Ohio and finally, to Houston. And while Clinton leaned on the brothers to get out the vote in Hispanic bastions in the Mountain West, she also sent the Castros to Iowa and Ohio — mostly white states. 

In fact, those are the two states carried by President Obama in 2012 that Clinton is most at risk of losing this year. 

For Julián Castro, it's a compliment that she did not pigeon-hole the brothers into Hispanic get-out-the-vote efforts. 

"We actually appreciate that from the campaign, because Joaquin and I believe that we can appeal to Latinos but we also have a broader appeal," he said. 

The early vote prospects in Columbus are promising for Clinton. In order to win the state, Ohio Democrats must run up the vote here and in Cleveland.

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"We walked a mile-and-a-half to get to the end of the line, so we're about an hour and a half in," said Cari Roehl, an insurance company communications director, who had her photo taken with the twins. 

Beyond talking to voters, the Castros made a stop at a Clinton field office to cheerlead door-knocking Clinton supporters. This is an effort to turn out the base: The canvassers are mostly only targeting households with a history of voting Democrats. 

Sunday was an abnormally warm day for early November in Ohio. But supporters concede there is an emotional chill to this election unlike ever before, thanks to the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.

Joaquin Castro agreed, while speaking to two dozen or so supporters on the field office patio. 

"I have to be honest with you — I've never wanted an election to be more over than this one, and I think you probably share that sentiment," he said to nodding heads. 

Andy Workun is a Clinton volunteer, retired aerospace engineer and a self-proclaimed "baseball addict." But somehow, the recent World Series drama between the Chicago Cubs and the home state Cleveland Indians — two teams he said he loves — just did not interest him this year. 

"Normally I would be glued to the TV set, but I found myself turning it off," he said. "My mind was just wandering so much about what's happening in the election." 

Even as the Castros campaigned Sunday afternoon, the electoral world was turning. Just as they entered the field office, news broke that FBI Director James Comey had announced no new findings — and no change in his decision not to prosecute — in the re-started investigation into Clinton's illicit email server. 

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Julián Castro reacted to the news saying it renewed investigation was "much ado about nothing." Joaquin Castro, the Congressman, declined to say if he thought the FBI leaks would be the subject of Congressional investigations. 

"Well, we'll have to sort that out after Tuesday, but we need to make sure that an episode like this doesn't happen before a presidential election again," he said. 

In most autumns, the most exciting thing happening around here is Ohio State University Buckeye football.

But the city has hosted a succession of political leaders and movie stars pleading with Democrats to vote for Clinton, who has struggled with voter enthusiasm. Caroline Gonzalez is an OSU political science major and met most of those celebrities, including former NSYNC singer Lance Bass. 

Are the Castros more thrilling than the pop star? 

"That's such a hard question," she laughed. "But definitely the Castro brothers. I love Lance Bass but as a political nerd, they're definitely higher on the list." 

There was a great deal of laughter in these quarters. The Democrats know Ohio will be tight, but they say they see little sign of a get-out-the-vote effort from the competition in this region. 

Julián Castro, the slightly older brother, was the more playful one on Sunday, making jokes about which twin was more handsome. 

"I can't wait for the moment on Fox News, when they turn to Karl Rove and tell him we're calling all of the electoral votes for the great state of Ohio for Hillary Clinton," Julian said to cheers and laughter, referencing Rove's angry denial of Ohio results on the channel in 2012

Joaquin Castro had a few jokes of his own, but he telegraphed steely feelings toward Trump. 

They are, after all, national representatives of a Latino community that absorbed the brunt of Trump's harsh rhetoric from the day he announced his candidacy. Joaquin Castro made a point to remind the two dozen or so people listening about Trump's now-infamous drug-dealers and rapists line about Mexican-Americans. 

"On Tuesday, for America to win, Donald Trump has to lose," he said. 

Read more:

  • U.S. Ted Cruz works to elect Republicans in downballot races.  
  • The Castro brothers campaigned for Democrats up and down the ballot in Texas.
  • U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, said he is mulling a run for U.S. Senate.