SANTA FE, N.M.—Former New Mexico legislator Fabian Chavez Jr., a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for higher offices, died Sunday at a senior living center. He was 88.

Chavez was elected to the House in 1950 and to the Senate in 1956, becoming majority floor leader five years later.

He lost a close race for governor in 1968 before and after losing general election races for Congress in 1964 and 1970.

Chavez ran again for governor in 1982, losing in the Democratic primary.

Chavez served as an assistant U.S. Commerce secretary in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

The Bernadillo Memorial Chapel on Monday confirmed Chavez's death.