Capitol Alert

Republican Rocky Chávez rips GOP leaders for indifference to U.S. Senate race

Video: Assemblyman Rocky Chavez on what makes him an unique candidate

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rocky Chavez talks about what sets him apart from the rest of the field.
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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rocky Chavez talks about what sets him apart from the rest of the field.

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, accused the California GOP of deciding to “take a walk” on his top-of-the-ticket race, and challenged its leaders to “stand up and fight.”

“There’s serious leaders in the California Republican Party who are telling donors ‘don’t give to the Senate race, we can’t win,’” Chávez, a retired Marine colonel from Oceanside, said in an interview Wednesday. “Well, that’s hurting us. It’s tough to raise money.”

Kaitlyn MacGregor, a spokeswoman for the state GOP, said the party typically does not get involved in primary contests but does not discourage anyone from donating to a Republican.

Chávez, who collected less than $100,000 though Sept. 30, said the GOP’s focus on down-ticket contests could contribute to keeping one of their own out of the general election.

“We have a good message as a party and California needs it,” he said. “Thirty percent of the population is in poverty. You have schools that aren’t (performing.) We passed a bond for water and haven’t done a damn thing for it. Stand up. This is not a blue state. This is a pragmatic state. It needs to hear our message.”

“We have great solutions on education, on efficient government, infrastructure development. We have things to offer. Let’s go offer those,” he added. “Let’s don’t run into a room, as my opponents have done, and say ‘I got a (no) tax pledge and I am for the Second Amendment ...’ That will ensure that we can get to just 19 percent of the state.”

The emerging race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer has largely focused on the two major Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange, given the party’s advantage in registered voters, as well as money and infrastructure. On the Republican side, Chávez is campaigning alongside a pair of former state party chairmen, Duf Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro. Early polling suggests none have been able to break away from the pack.

In recent days, Chávez said he spoke with “Republican players” who urged him to drop out of the Senate race and retain his seat in the state Assembly, which he could conceivably hold until 2024. Chávez said they were somewhat disappointed when he told them he was staying in the race.

“They said ‘What’s going to happen?’” Chávez said. “And I said, ‘If you guys continue to push your message out that no Republican can win, then Kamala (Harris) and (Loretta) Sanchez will finish Nos. 1 and 2 and there will be no Republican after the primary.”

“It’s tough,” he added. “But we’re not going to stop. I am going to run as hard as I can, putting 110 percent into this, and not looking back.”

Chávez discussed several other issues at The Bee’s Capitol Bureau, among them:

On his GOP opponents: “They talk about me as a career politician. But both of them were chairmen of the Republican Party and that’s about as ‘inside’ as you can get. If you want to know how it works, go ask the chairman of the Republican Party. I actually had a career. I was three decades in the Marine Corps., ran a charter school for seven years.”

On Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims: “It’s just appalling.”

On voting for Trump if he gets the nomination: “Never. Not even for dogcatcher. I wouldn’t vote for (Hillary) Clinton or Trump ... But I think he’s done now. I think that’s why you are seeing (Ted) Cruz rising in Iowa ... Trump will be around. But he’ll be a dying dinosaur. The question is does he go as an independent?”

On Paris climate talks: “It’s appropriate that we have a discussion. And I think it’s appropriate developing nations say ‘If you don’t want us to go through the process of industrialization, you need to provide us the technology and resources to leapfrog that element of energy production so we can go into green energy.’”

On whether he would have gone if he was governor: “Because of what’s going on now in California (namely the San Bernardino shootings), I wouldn’t have been there. But I still would have had my people involved.”

On strengthening gun laws: “We have the strongest gun laws in the nation. How did it work? If it was the pipe bomb which everybody was concerned about are gun laws going to change a pipe bomb? No. They are going to figure out how to do something. The only thing I think is viable is when they bring up the issue of if you are on a terrorist watch list should you be able to buy one?”

On who he likes in the GOP presidential field: “The top three I would go for are Marco (Rubio), (Jeb) Bush and (John) Kasich. They are more thoughtful. I like Marco’s energy and his foreign policy. The only thing I have a little bit of a concern with Marco is his inexperience as a one-term senator. Bush and Kasich, I like somebody who has actually run things, as governors. They are also better measured as in their comments. I think Bush better than Kasich on that ... But neither one of them is going forward very far.”

On the political climate: “People are generally angry at politicians.”

On his fundraising: “I am not going to be raising any significant money. And I don’t think (the other Republicans) will, either. I am continuing to raise enough to keep my operation running. We’re not raising tens of millions. I am not staying at the Waldorf Astoria.”

On self-funded candidates: “Wealthy doesn’t work. How much money did Meg Whitman have? How much money did Carly Fiorina have? ... I would argue it’s more important with the right message and the right candidate. These candidates who have been put up before aren’t real reflective of California.”

On the holiday party circuit: “My wife and I try to do three Christmas parties a night: In, cocktails, move, go to the next one, and keep on going. I have a great wife and she’s agreed to this.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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