Now that Republican Assemblyman Rocky (his actual name — we asked) Chavez of Oceanside has officially joined the race for U.S. Senate from California, becoming Democratic Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’s No. 1 and, so far, only opponent, Calbuzz spent some time the other day chatting with him about actual, you know, issues. Our motto: We do this so you don’t have to.
Turns out that while Chavez, 63, is at odds with the mainstream of California political sentiment on some key issues – abortion rights, health care, minimum wage, offshore oil drilling, for example — he is more thoughtful and not nearly as rabid nor strident as your hardcore, right-wing, Tea Party type Republicans. Talking issues with Rocky Balboa, you have to admire his openness and easy candor.
Pro-Cuomo on Abortion: Take abortion rights, for example, a position overwhelmingly favored by California voters. As a practicing Catholic, Chavez is pro-life. Importantly, however, he says he would not support an attempt to overturn Roe v Wade’s protection of a woman’s right to choose because “that’s been settled in the courts.” Nor, he said, would he vote for measures to further restrict abortion rights, like requiring parental consent for minors.
And it infuriates him when people from the anti-abortion right wing accuse him of being a “weak Catholic.” Basically, his position is similar to the one laid out at Notre Dame in September 1984 by former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
The Catholic who holds political office in a pluralistic democracy — who is elected to serve Jews and Muslims, atheists and Protestants, as well as Catholics — bears special responsibility. He or she undertakes to help create conditions under which all can live with a maximum of dignity and with a reasonable degree of freedom; where everyone who chooses may hold beliefs different from specifically Catholic ones — sometimes contradictory to them; where the laws protect people’s right to divorce, to use birth control and even to choose abortion.
That’s pretty much the position Gov. Jerry Brown also holds on the issue. So Rocky’s in good company.
For the record, he believes the big choice vs. life issue in California is not abortion, but assisted suicide and he’s absolutely opposed to allowing it. “I’m not going to vote for anything that doesn’t see the sanctity of life,” he said. It’s a personal issue for him. His 37-year-old son was diagnosed and hospitalized with schizophrenia years ago and at a point of unbearable misery wanted his father to help him end his life – a plea Chavez said he refused. He son is doing well today, he added.
Would Allow Obamacare to Crash While the Field Poll says California voters favor the Affordable Health Care Act by a margin of 56-35%, Chavez says he would “vote to change Obamacare because it doesn’t work.” (This is not what you might call an actual fact, but it is his belief.)
We’re spending a lot of money processing insurance, he argues. “It would have been cheaper to buy everybody a Blue Cross policy.”
Given the chance, he’d vote in the Senate to eliminate the individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance. He acknowledged that if the individual mandate is eliminated, the health care system as now constructed in California would collapse, but is willing for that to happen to eliminate what he believes is a terrible public policy.
Minimum Wage Chavez told us he’s opposed to increasing the minimum wage – another position that many California voters may not like much. His reason: he believes it freezes many teenagers out of the employment market. “I don’t think the issue is minimum wage…I think it prevents kids from having a job,” he said, recalling his own first jobs “clean(ing) toilets and bus(ing) tables.”
Offshore Oil. He said he would vote for renewed offshore oil drilling in federal waters “if it meets all the requirements for science and safety of the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources.”
Fighting ISIS. As for fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), he’d vote to give President Obama whatever powers he needs. He said he believes Obama’s foreign policy is “a total disaster in the Middle East.” But would not have signed the letter that 47 Republican senators recently sent to Iran seeking to undermine Obama’s negotiations to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
“Partisanship ends at our borders,” he said. “He is the Commander in Chief,” he added, sounding very much like the retired Marine colonel that he is.
Pathway to Something. On immigration, Chavez offers a position much closer to the California mainstream than most Republican politicians – a pathway to legal residency. It’s not a pathway to citizenship, but a compromise position, that might not be as expansive as most Latino voters would prefer, but a lot less off-putting than the round-‘em-up-and-send-‘em-home stand so popular within the GOP.
Chavez says he approaches the issue using three principles:
1) Family – “The Republican Party has always valued marriage and children,” he said, “but we’re sending mothers and fathers away from their kids. That’s not good.”
2) Security – He wants better security at the border, but that shouldn’t be the first thing out of a Republican candidate’s mouth, he said. That just causes Latino voters to shut down. “They say, ‘Why would I vote for you if I felt you’d never want me over for dinner?’”
3) Citizenship: No – We have laws governing how people become citizens (which he’s still researching, he said) but he favors “what I call residency,” with which immigrants could register, get a driver’s license, pay taxes and follow procedures to obtain their citizenship over time.
Unlike a lot of politicians, Chavez — Chico State and USMC — is refreshingly straight-forward. He’s not the most articulate candidate we’ve encountered, be he’s a bright guy who’s willing to risk a seat in the California Assembly to give Queen Kamala a challenge.
In his big underdog willingness to take on a candidate who’s backed by California’s powerful Democratic establishment and Washington’s liberal elite, we’re reminded of the words of another Rocky, namely the underdog boxer played by Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.”
The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows… You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.
PS. After our post about the California Republican Party Convention, at which our attempt to interview Rocky was interrupted by a junior woodchuck press aide, one
Captain Mr. Chistopher Pickard, we received a heartfelt apology and help setting up a phone conversation with the assemblyman. Calbuzz appreciates his apology and good grace.