California Senate candidate shows up for first debate, quits race and then walks out

A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer got the most attention Monday night in a scheduled debate among him and two other candidates seeking to be the party nominee.

He showed up, then said he was out – gone. Adios, caio, au revoir, bye-bye. And with that, state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, a former Marine colonel, was the biggest newsmaker of the event, at least for the moment.

Chavez, who had thrown his hat in the ring in for what many say is a nearly impossible feat – getting elected in a state where Democrats control all statewide offices and have long controlled both U.S. Senate seats – stunned those who had gathered in the studio of KOGO-AM radio in San Diego for the first GOP debate, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Chavez said he was dropping out to give the GOP a better chance of defeating Democrats Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of getting elected to Boxer’s seat.

“I’ve given this a lot of thought and prayer, with my wife and family,” Chavez said, according to the Times, “and I think the best role I can fill for the Republican Party and moving the agenda forward … is to run for my Assembly seat, since I’m not going to be running for the United States Senate.”

The primary is scheduled for June 7. Only the top two vote-getters go on to compete in the November election, even if they are from the same party. Chavez said staying in the race would splinter GOP votes, and make it even more likely that both Democrats would be on the November ballot for the Senate seat.

Chavez had faced big odds at winning the primary. He is not well known statewide, and though he did better, with about 7 percent, in a recent poll of registered voters than his GOP colleagues, he had considerable trouble raising money for his campaign. Harris got 27 percent, and Sanchez got 15 percent.

The Times reports that by the end of last year, Chavez said he had $369 in campaign funds and $42,889 in debts.

Chavez’s exit from the race leaves two Republicans, George “Duf” Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro, both attorneys and both former chairmen of the California Republican Party.

“I appreciate Rocky doing the [right] thing for the state and the party,” the Times quoted Sundheim as saying during a break at the debate.

Del Beccaro said he thought Chavez’s departure would benefit him.

“I think Duf’s policies are too much like the Democrats on many issues, and therefore he doesn’t really give Republicans a voice,” Del Beccaro said.

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