Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez announced this morning that he will run against Attorney General Kamala Harris in the race for U.S. Senate.
Chavez, 63, is a retired Marine Corps colonel and former Oceanside councilman. He has won a reputation as a moderate, speaking up in support of immigration, gay marriage and the science of climate change.
Chavez is also a big supporter of charter schools, having founded a charter high school in Oceanside after retiring from the military.
In his announcement, Chavez focused on national security, saying he would be better prepared than Harris to deal with issues such as the rise of ISIS.
“If things get worse overseas, who would Californians want representing them in the Senate?” Chavez said in his press release. “A lawyer from San Francisco or a Marine Colonel.”
Of course, the odds are stacked against any Republican running for statewide office in California. The last Republican to win statewide was Steve Poizner, who became insurance commissioner in 2006. Analysts are split over whether Chavez has absolutely no chance or just an extremely small chance.
For now, though, he is the only major Republican in the race, which gives him an excellent chance of making it to the November 2016 runoff. Depending on how many Democrats enter the race, he might even finish first in the June 2016 primary.
As a big supporter of education reform, he might also force Harris to take a clear position on education issues, which tend to divide the Democratic Party. Nothing for Harris to lose sleep over, but any hint of drama is welcome at this point.
“The attorney general welcomes him to the race and believes anyone should run for office if that's how he or she believes California can be best served,” said Harris' spokesman, Brian Brokaw.
Update: In an interview, Chavez said he did not see a conflict between staying true to conservative principles and restoring the Republican Party to statewide relevance. He noted the party's recent embrace of the Log Cabin Republicans, and said that the party is evolving.
“I see myself as part of that changing catalyst,” he said. “I'm still true to core values. I like freedoms. But I also care about my neighbor.”
Chavez noted that he won his 2012 Assembly race against the party's endorsed candidate, who was more conservative. He also noted his support for immigration reform, and said that Harris should not be considered the inevitable victor.
“When we get the opportunity to get our message out, a lot of people who are measuring drapes may have to rethink that,” he said.