New Mexico voters elected the first Hispanic United States Senator in 1928; his name – Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo, born in Chihuahua, Mexico. California had the honor of electing the first Hispanic Lt. Governor who became the country’s first Hispanic governor in 1875. Romualdo Pacheco also was the first Hispanic congressman and later the first Hispanic United States Ambassador to a foreign country. Both men were Republicans.
Despite formerly Mexican California being a state for 165 years, California has never had a Hispanic U.S. Senator. That may change next year.
Chavez ... has been a pioneering Hispanic officeholder who speaks his mind, votes his conscience and disregards venom-from-hate he has suffered because he is a man of moderation
- Raoul Lowery Contreras
Colonel Rocky Chavez (United States Marine Corps, retired after 28 years), graduate of California State University, Chico and the fields and fruit packing plants of California, is running for the United States Senate. If he wins, he will be the first Hispanic to serve California as a senator.
Currently, there are three Hispanic U.S. Senators: Bob Menendez (D) of New Jersey (Currently in legal trouble), Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas, a possible 2016 Presidential candidate, and Florida’s Marco Rubio who is also close to announcing a run for President.
Six other Hispanics have served as U.S. Senator; John Sununu of New Hampshire, Ken Salazar of Colorado, Mel Martinez of Florida and Dennis Chavez, Joe Montoya and the aforementioned Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo of New Mexico.
Unfortunately for California, Chavez has to give up his seat in the California State Assembly where he has been a pioneering Hispanic officeholder who speaks his mind, votes his conscience and disregards venom-from-hate he has suffered because he is a man of moderation who is tight with a public buck, supports babies yet to be born and firmly believes in compromise to make progress towards the end zone.
His announcement for the Senate seat being vacated by 25-year-long Senator Barbara Boxer was well received by the state’s major newspapers except for his hometown paper, San Diego’s UT-San Diego. Its editorial page editor, Bill Osborne stabbed Rocky in the back by condemning him for running for the Senate and leaving his 76th Assembly district people in a “lurch.” As if that is possible.
Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Rocky saying, “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?
The Sacramento Bee’s Chris Cadelgo wrote, “his résumé and standing as a state legislator make him the most prominent Republican among those weighing bids.” Cadelgo’s reference is to two former GOP State Chairmen, Tom Beccaro (Buckaroo) and Def Sundheim that are contemplating runs.
The Los Angeles Times said “Were he to win, Chávez would be California's first Latino in the U.S. Senate… Chávez, as a sitting state legislator, has said that he represents the new face of the party and a viable opportunity for the GOP to make its case to voters."
Contrary to his editorial page editor, UT-San Diego columnist Logan Jenkins’ words were more encouraging than Osborne’s morbid “Change your mind, Rocky, for your constituents’ sake. Jenkins said: “A rosa — the Great Brown Hope award — to Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside, the freshly announced Republican candidate for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat.
Chavez sparkles in comparison to Kamala Harris, who served as District Attorney of San Francisco and is now California Attorney General. Despite being an elected law enforcement official, she rejects California’s death penalty and presumably she also rejects the federal death penalty.
Chavez is a law writer, a legislator; before the State Assembly, Rocky was elected twice to the Oceanside City Council. Senators are legislators. Rocky is uniquely qualified to be a Senator. As a Marine Colonel he worked with multimillion dollar budgets. He personally handled immigration problems of his Marines. He served as Acting Director of the California Department of Veteran Affairs. He even tried to join the Assembly Hispanic Caucus in the spirit of bipartisanship. The all-Democrat Caucus turned Rocky down because he is a Republican.
Rocky is a Republican that independents can vote for; ditto millions of California Hispanics. All Hispanics need to see is how Rocky will be (he already is) ravaged by the lunatic fringes of California politics, left and right.
Jenkins: “Chavez, a standout wrestler in his youth, may not punch his way to Boxer’s seat, but he can be victorious if he softens the California GOP’s image among Latinos … A soft-liner on immigration reform, Chavez can send the message that his party (or at least the California wing) respects the hard work and sacrifice of the millions of immigrants working in the country, legally and illegally."
Rocky told me, “The next Senator will not be crowned by a party (elite), but voted on by the people of California ... There are reasons we have campaigns."
Rocky’s announcement was noticed nationally, and quite a few media outlets were impressed by his working his way through college in the fields, serving in the Marines for 28 years and this statement, “My son graduated from UC Davis and then he went off to UPenn Medical and he’s a doctor. That’s called the American dream.”
Or as Rocky’s fellow Los Angelenos would say, “El Sueño Americano.”
Raoul Lowery Contreras is a political consultant. He was formerly with the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate. Contreras's books are available at Amazon.com