Candidates for California’s Congressional District 36 debated Friday night, Oct. 12. Policy answers were infrequent. Instead both candidates challenged their opponent’s character.

Incumbent, Republican Representative Mary Bono Mack opened the debate with a revelation about her democratic challenger Dr. Raul Ruiz’s political actions while attending Harvard Medical School.

He was involved in several protests against the celebration of Thanksgiving and was even arrested in 1997. Allegedly, Ruiz had advocated “Smashing Plymouth Rock. Crush the rock and all it represents.”

Ruiz was one of several protesters arrested during this event. He claimed he was protecting a tribal elder, Sam Sapiel. But she responded, “Ruiz signed a legal document stating there wasn’t any misconduct by the Plymouth Police Department.”

Ruiz opened the debate with a discussion of his background and growing up in the Coachella Valley. But then he accused Bono Mack of ignoring issues, bickering and tied her to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

While the media panel asked questions about Medicare, Medicaid, jobs for the Coachella Valley, Proposition 8 and the Salton Sea, the two candidates focused on their answers on symbolically portraying their opponent as a one-dimensional caricature of the other party. Bono Mack consistently referred to Ruiz’s Thanksgiving Day incidents and whether he could be trusted. Ruiz spent much of his time alleging Bono Mack is out of touch with the district’s voters or attributing the Republican party’s stances to her personally.

Immigration was the one subject that both seemed ready and willing to address specifically. Perhaps they could speak to an issue on which they held similar views.

“I’m not for amnesty, I’m for an earned path to citizenship,” Ruiz said. Bono Mack also disavowed support for amnesty and wants to strengthen the guest worker program. Both support the Dream Act.

However, Ruiz alleged the congressional inability to enact immigration legislation is a failure of Bono Mack leadership skills, as though she alone could develop and pass a controversial bill.

Despite an hour for opening, closing statements and responses to questions, very little was learned about the candidates’ policy positions other than “My opponent supports Paul Ryan and multimillionaires” or “My opponent’s first vote will be to make Nancy Pelosi House speaker.”

KMIR 6 News (a Palm Springs television station) and The Desert Sun sponsored the debate at which there was no audience. Gino Lamont KMIR 6 was the moderator and his partner and news co-anchor Elizabeth Beaubien, and Desert Sun political writer Erica Felci delivered the policy questions in the live debate.

The debate between Bono Mack and Ruiz can be seen at either embedded& v=atc9jDujLwI#! or