Assemblyman Rocky Chávez on Thursday became the first prominent Republican to declare candidacy for California’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016.
Chávez, R-Oceanside, said he plans to focus on strengthening national security, creating more education opportunities for our children and improving our economy for all Californians.
“Our national security is a major concern, with ISIS growing bolder every day,” Chávez said. “If things get worse overseas, who would Californians want representing them in the Senate? A lawyer from San Francisco, or a Marine Colonel who knows how lives can be protected and understands the importance of keeping America and her allies safe and secure?”
Chávez, 63, said Californians “want to take their state back” and “are looking for someone who shares their story.”
“My father taught me the value of hard work in the grape fields with my uncles and cousins, which led to my success in the military and desire to give back through public service,” he said. “I learned about the American Dream from my father, but I’m afraid we risk losing that dream for our children if we can’t get our country back on track.”
Chávez is in his second term representing the 76th Assembly District in northern San Diego County. Earlier, he was acting secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs and an Oceanside councilman; he’s retired from the Marine Corps.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, declared candidacy in January for the senate seat that Barbara Boxer will vacate next year. Harris polls strongest among those who have expressed interest in the race; a Field Poll last month found 46 percent of likely voters would be inclined to vote for her, while 20 percent would be inclined to vote for Chávez.
Two little-known Republicans, John Estrada of Fresno and Mark Hardie of Whittier, say they’re running too, though Hardie has yet to form a campaign committee. And former California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette has formed an exploratory committee for the race.
On the Democratic side, two who were thought to be potential rivals to Harris – hedge fund billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer of San Francisco, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have decided not to run. But several other Democrats still are pondering the contest, including House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove; Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles; and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.
Chávez’s status as a moderate – on issues such as same-sex marriage, immigration and his statement that he wouldn’t vote to repeal Obamacare – has some conservatives chafing.
“Rocky Chávez is not so much a Republican, or a Democrat or nonpartisan as he is a opportunist. To get where he wants to go, Rocky Chávez will say whatever he things it will take,” Stephen Frank, publisher of California Political News and Views and a past president of the conservative grassroots California Republican Assembly, wrote in his online column Wednesday.
Frank, who said he supports Del Beccaro for this race, said Chávez’s candidacy “is being supported by the same folks that talked Neel Kashkari into running. But Kashkari was new to politics, did not understand the goal was not to win in November, but to assure a solid Republican was not the nominee. Poor Neel, after he won the primary, his primary ‘friends’ stopped returning his calls. So he lost by 20 points.”
“Is Rocky the 2016 version of Kashkari, put into the race to assure NO Republican is on the November 2016 U.S. Senate ballot?” Frank wrote. “Only time will tell. What is certain now is that it is uncertain who Rocky will be and what he will believe in the future – being a member of the Opportunist Party does that to a guy.”