Dr. Raul Ruiz visits the Town Crier. Photo by Marshall Smith

By J.P. Crumrine, Editor
and Marshall Smith, Staff Reporter

Dr. Raul Ruiz, Democratic candidate for the California Congressional District 36 seat, visited the Town Crier Thursday, Jan. 5.

After a hectic few months raising money for his campaign this year and a full week of emergency room work at Eisenhower Medial Center, Ruiz came to Idyllwild for a few days of rest and peace.

“It’s one of my favorite places, my second home, my second community,” he said smiling.

Nevertheless he took time to sit down and discuss what he believes will be the issues that will dominate this summer’s and fall’s campaign between him and incumbent Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack.

“I’ll be focusing on small businesses because small businesses are like a family,” he said. He recognizes that health care for employees and its cost for employers will be one of three issues, which he will emphasize in his campaign.

But he spoke at length about the Future Physician Leaders program he has helped organize in Coachella Valley. It has been incorporated into the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, where he is on the faculty, and where its programs will be broadened and extended to the entire Inland Empire.

“It started with nine kids whom I challenged to get involved,” he said. “I believe in personal responsibility. You create your own opportunities. I challenged kids in lower income communities. Now, after three years, there are 80 pre-med students and 40 local physicians working together.”

Creating and establishing this program for high school students to become doctors and, possibly having them return to the Coachella Valley represents one of many ways Ruiz wants to serve the community. He described himself as a community advocate. “I’m mentoring them to embrace the old fashioned picture of a country doctor,” he said.

“I want to mentor through my experience, whether that’s in the emergency room or the halls of Congress,” he said proudly.

Providing improved health care is not the only issue that Ruiz will stress in the campaign and in Congress if elected. Jobs and employment are equally high on his priority list. He said that the three biggest industries in the district are tourism, health care and agriculture. Combining these areas, he plans to help employers in these industries create jobs with livable wages and increased productivity.

He was surprised to learn that Idyllwild’s roots began with a combination of the first two industries. At the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Walter Lindley’s Idyllwild Sanatorium was built to encourage tourism and cure tuberculosis.

Ruiz is just beginning a district-wide listening tour and will be visiting Idyllwild again during the year.

When asked why he would leave a profession, successful practice and teaching career to run for Congress, Ruiz said, “What compelled me to run were the levels of poverty I saw in kids [in the district]; adults that are uninsured; when 3,000 seniors in our district report there are days when they go without eating to buy medicine. The statistics in the Coachella Valley hurt. I am as fed up as anybody else.”