- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Republicans are hoping for a surprise this year in California’s U.S. Senate race.

It won’t be coming from Rocky Chavez.

The Republican legislator and retired Marine Corps colonel abruptly ended his campaign Monday, after piling up nearly $43,000 in debt and displaying scant evidence he was gaining ground in the race.

Chavez was one of several little-known Republicans hoping to upend conventional political thinking this year. Democrats are favored to hold the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, in a state where the party holds every statewide office and controls both chambers of the Legislature.

However, Chavez’s exit could bolster the chances of one of the remaining Republicans who face a difficult challenge: making it through a June primary in which only the top two vote-getters advance to the November ballot.

Democrats have two prominent candidates in the race: state Attorney General Kamala Harris and 10-term congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.

Last year, the San Diego County lawmaker expressed confidence that he could win in a state that has sent Democrats to the Senate for a generation, and he contrasted his background in the military with the credentials of Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney.

But he struggled to find financial support and independent polls showed him stalled in the single digits.

He made the announcement at the start of a debate with other Republicans on KOGO-AM radio in San Diego. He says he’s decided to seek re-election to the Assembly.

Republicans left in the race include two former state party chairmen, Silicon Valley attorney Duf Sundheim, who has positioned himself as a moderate, and Tom Del Beccaro, a lawyer aligned with the party’s conservative base.

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