By Christopher Cadelago
03/05/2015 7:46 PM

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez formally entered the contest to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday, offering himself as a pragmatic leader focused on strengthening national security, educational opportunities and the state economy.

A retired Marine Corps colonel from Oceanside, he joins Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris as the only major candidates in the race.

“Our national security is a major concern, with ISIS growing bolder every day,” Chávez said in a statement announcing his candidacy. “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.”

Harris’ spokesman, Brian Brokaw, said the attorney general welcomes Chávez into the race “and believes anyone should run for office if that’s how he or she believes California can be best served.”

The field has been slow to materialize since Boxer earlier this year announced that she would not seek a fifth term in 2016. Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, Adam Schiff of Burbank and Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana have said they are seriously looking at running.

In addition to Chávez, two former state GOP chairmen are considering campaigns. Chávez has so far declined to handicap other prospective candidates, calling it “a long way to the parade.”

But his résumé and standing as a state legislator make him the most prominent Republican among those weighing bids. A former city councilman in Oceanside, he spent nearly three decades in the Marines and later served as acting secretary to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Chávez, 63, describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. He supports gay marriage and has chided members of his own party for blocking immigration reform. He opposes abortion rights, however, a position he attributes to his Catholic upbringing.

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