WASHINGTON — Former Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who oversaw coalition forces in Iraq before retiring in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, is running for Senate in Texas as a Democrat.
Sanchez announced the decision on his Facebook page on Wednesday and will file campaign paperwork in San Antonio. Sanchez said he could "think of no better way to continue my public service" than to run for Senate in Texas.
"Here in Texas too many families are struggling to get ahead," Sanchez wrote in a Facebook message to supporters. "Jobs are hard to find, our schools simply aren't good enough and increasing food and gas prices are breaking household budgets."
Sanchez, 59, was raised in the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border and lives in San Antonio. He is the only Democrat to declare for the race to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
National Democrats worked to recruit Sanchez into a race they think he can make competitive in a solidly Republican state because of his appeal to the state's ballooning Hispanic population. Democrats also believe a congested Republican primary will weaken the eventual nominee.
Despite the taint of the Abu Ghraib scandal — Sanchez was exonerated of responsibility in an Army report — Democrats believe his military background will be an asset and give him credibility as a centrist.
"Texas needs a strong, independent voice to address the enormous challenges we are facing," Sanchez said.
Republicans have said they do not expect the race to be competitive, no matter who emerges from their primary. The crowded field for the nomination is likely to include wealthy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, current Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
Hutchison announced in January she would retire at the end of her term.
Sanchez served as the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, a period that included revelations about abuse at Abu Ghraib. He was never directly linked to wrongdoing and has maintained he had no knowledge about events at the prison, but the issue is certain to come up in the race.
Sanchez has been critical of U.S. military strategy in Iraq since retiring, particularly the so-called troop surge. He has also written a book and sketched out a political philosophy. In interviews he has called himself a "progressive" and a fiscal conservative.