Chávez, a former U.S. Marine colonel and onetime member of the Oceanside City Council, was first elected to the Assembly in 2012. In a written statement, he said he would focus in the Senate on national security, education and the economy.
“I believe absolutely that I am a uniquely qualified candidate,” Chávez said. “I’m a fighter who brings bipartisan support to issues and gets them solved.”
Chávez will face a tough challenge in a state dominated by Democrats. The only major candidate in the race so far is state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat with a strong political foundation in San Francisco, where she was once district attorney. Harris also has a national fundraising base.
Other big-name Democrats, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have declined to run.
“If things get worse overseas,” Chávez said in his statement, “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.”
Other Republicans weighing whether to run include former state Republican chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim.
Chávez served as acting secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that 19% of registered voters could identify Chávez by name. In a multi-candidate field, he received the backing of 6% of those surveyed.
“Californians are looking for someone who shares their story,” Chávez said. “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.”