Photo: Dr. Raul Ruiz Looking to Represent Rural California District in Congress
Dr. Raul Ruiz is the first Hispanic to seek to occupy a seat in Congress from California’s Coachella Valley agricultural area, where he was born and raised.
The Democrat, who works in the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, is aiming to replace Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack, who has represented the 45th District since 2003.
“Our district is full of working people who want progress and whose efforts are not reflected in the policies of Washington D.C.,” Ruiz, the son of farmworkers, told Efe.
The 39-year-old physician is seeking to take advantage of local irritation with the fact that Bono Mack spends long periods in Florida, home of her husband, GOP Rep. Connie Mack IV.
The 45th district has experienced a democratic transformation in recent years with the Latino community growing to 38 percent of its population, according to the 2010 Census.
Before becoming a candidate, Ruiz, in his role as associate dean of the medical school at University of California Riverside, had launched campaigns to train and encourage a new generation of professionals in medicine, in accord with which he has been the mentor for about 60 young people.
Ruiz has experience seeking support in Coachella.
When he finished high school, and lacking money to go to college, he went around to local businesses to ask for financial help, which he obtained in exchange for the promise to return and serve the community as a physician.
Ruiz graduated from UCLA in 1995 and went on to Harvard, where he earned his medical degree as well as a master’s in public policy and a master’s in public health.
Despite the fact that many of his supporters lack residence documents and cannot vote, their support is important for his campaign, since they feel that he understands their needs.
Ruiz announced his campaign on Sept. 17 and collected $51,999 during the next two weeks in contributions, most of it from individual donors and $6,000 from a PAC managed by California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.
His humanitarian work has led him to help out on projects in Mexico, El Salvador and Serbia, as well as being the first medical director of the clinic that actor Sean Penn founded in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
He has won prizes for his international work, including Influential Latino of the Year from the 2009 Inland Empire Hispanic Image Awards; the Commander’s Award for Public Service, given by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne; and the 2011 Humanitarian Award from the California American College of Emergency Physicians.
Despite the fact that his campaign is still in the early stages, Ruiz said that he is confident that the residents of the valley will support him “by investing in a vision of growth that will benefit them in the long term.”