OCEANSIDE — Last September, former Oceanside Councilman Rocky Chavez announced he was running for the 76th District seat in the state Assembly.
Prior to being elected to the Oceanside City Council, Chavez served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 28 years, reaching the rank of colonel. Most recently, Chavez, a Republican, was undersecretary and later acting secretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs (Gov. Jerry Brown replaced him with another appointment last May).
His platform stresses jobs and education, especially for the large military population living in the newly redrawn 76th District, which includes Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista and Camp Pendleton.
“The price of war is not when they say ‘OK we’re out of a particular country,”’ Chavez said. The price of war goes on 10 to 20 years beyond that. Those people who fought in those battles, you need to address their needs.”
As part of his campaign, Chavez has championed military outreach programs designed to help soldiers transition into civilian jobs. He also promotes assistance for military members, particularly women who served, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. But passing additional programs for veterans may be difficult in cash-strapped California. Chavez believes he can help secure funding by integrating state outreach with federal programs and nonprofits.
“We need to align our state programs with things the VA (the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) is already recognizing,” Chavez said.
Chavez also believes the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs should contribute more money to veterans in California. According to Chavez, in terms of VA funding, California is below the national average.
Chavez served on the Oceanside City Council for seven years. While sitting on the City Council, Chavez was also chief education officer at the School of Business and Technology, a charter school in Oceanside. Although the school closed in 2007 due to lack of funding, Chavez still advocates for charter schools.
“Charter schools are a great opportunity, but they’re not the only opportunity,” Chavez said. “There’s a place for a comprehensive high school, there’s a place for charter schools; there’s a place for magnet schools. What’s always made me wonder, ‘Why do people want to have one educational system when we recognize none of us are alike?’”
Other candidates vying for the 76th District seat include Republicans Sherry Hodges, a legislative aide, and Carlsbad Councilwoman Farrah Douglas, a small business owner who touts her experience as chief executive of CDS Printing.
As a point of contrast to Douglas, Chavez emphasized his experience managing larger budgets.
“Having run the Marine Corps budget, the School of Business and Technology budget and the state veterans affairs budget, which was $350 million, I understand how the process works,” Chavez said. “Compare that with a small budget.”
For Chavez, there are three economic clusters that are key for creating jobs in the 76th District: pharmaceuticals, the defense industry and tourism.
When asked how he would increase tourism, Chavez cited development in Oceanside as one opportunity.
“I would be specific, let me just jump on Oceanside,” Chavez said. “Oceanside needs a high-end hotel.”
Chavez added: “You need to make sure people have the nice amenities they can go to across the whole economic spectrum.”
Considering recent cuts to the nation’s military budget, relying on Department of Defense dollars to support the local economy could be risky.
But according to Chavez, San Diego will have more job opportunities because military forces are shifting to California over the long term.
As of the beginning of this year, Chavez’s campaign has raised more than $105,000.