Marsha Mercer

Marsha Mercer

Score one for the animals.

If he’s elected president, Democratic hopeful Julián Castro will end the horrible practice of euthanizing domestic cats and dogs in shelters.

Castro, former Housing and Urban Development secretary and mayor of San Antonio, released his Protecting Animals and Wildlife — or PAW — Plan Monday.

He also would make animal abuse a federal crime, prohibit bringing big game trophies into the country and reverse President Trump’s actions to weaken the Endangered Species Act that protects plants and animals from extinction.

Democrats’ No. 1 job for 2020 is sending Trump back up the escalator at Trump Tower, and Labor Day signals a new campaign phase.

Voting will begin in five months — with the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3 and New Hampshire primary Feb. 11 — so candidates are switching from “Hello” and “No!” — that is, introducing themselves and reacting to Trump’s continual tweet machine — to “I will” — presenting their own plans.

Just as Trump has tried to obliterate through executive actions much of what President Barack Obama accomplished, the next president could roll back much of Trump’s executive actions. Several Democratic candidates pledge to revoke the Trump-approved permits for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, for example.

Castro, who also has plans for education, immigration, homeland security and housing, is a longshot for the White House, but he’s among at least 10 contenders who will appear onstage in the next round of Democratic debates Sept. 12 and 13. The deadline for making the cut is Aug. 28.

Saving pets’ lives isn’t as high profile a campaign issue as gun control or Medicare for All, but it’s smart in Democratic primaries to stand up for animals and the planet.

About one in three Americans believe animals should have the same rights as humans, a 2015 Gallup poll found. About four in five Americans support the Endangered Species Act, an Ohio State University study reported last year.

Other candidates are also staking out high ground. Beto O’Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress, hopes to restart his campaign in the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, by going big on gun control.

O’Rourke released his plan Aug. 16 to ban assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. He also would force owners to sell some weapons back to the government or pay a fine, create a new gun licensing and registration system and expand background checks.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is pushing for “baby bonds,” federally funded savings accounts for each newborn that would be structured to close the wealth gap.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has offered a slew of proposals, released two new ones this week. Her plan to help native Americans has drawn praise from Indian Country.

She and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont each offered proposals to reform the criminal justice system — as have several others, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend.

The time for straight talk also apparently has arrived.

As some Democrats reassess Biden because of his recent gaffes, his wife stressed her husband’s top selling point.

“You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who is going to win,” Jill Biden said this week in New Hampshire. “Your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.”

As we approach the end of the beginning of the 2020 campaign, time may be running out for candidates still struggling to connect.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who has not yet qualified for the next debate, promotes yoga, mindfulness and wellness practices to help war veterans heal and to bring down prescription use and health care costs generally.

Promising to be the “Zen president,” Ryan told CNN Aug. 14 that after Trump, Americans will want a president with the “quality of equanimity in rocky times.”

He very well could be right.

But it’s through their plans and straight talk that Democrats hope to break away from the pack.

Mercer writes from Washington. Email her at marsha.mercer@yahoo.com. © Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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