Dr. Raul Ruiz. File photo.
Dr. Raul Ruiz. File photo.

Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz (D) is running for a third term to represent Congressional District 36. In 2012, he defeated Republican incumbent Mary Bono. In 2014, he defeated Republican challenger Brian Nestande. In each election, Ruiz won with over 52 percent of the vote.

As an incumbent running in a presidential election year with a significant fundraising edge over 2016 Republican challenger state Sen. Jeff Stone ($2.5 million to $323,000), Ruiz appears poised to win re-election.

Ruiz, an emergency-room physician prior to election to Congress, has deep roots in the Coachella Valley. The son of farm workers, Ruiz was raised in the valley. He worked his way through college, attending UCLA and Harvard, where he earned three graduate degrees — a medical degree as well as degrees from the Kennedy School of Government and the School of Public Health. He was the first Latino to earn three graduate degrees from Harvard.

On the issues, Ruiz, based on his Congressional voting record, is viewed as a centrist, who is slightly left of center. A Congressional Quarterly analysis of Ruiz’s first year in office showed that he voted against President Obama 41 percent of the time and against House Democrats 23 percent of the time.

In interview, Ruiz cited jobs and national security as the most important issues facing the district.

On jobs, Ruiz favors assisting small businesses by decreasing taxes and business regulation. He was instrumental in securing a Small Business Administration office for the Coachella Valley. He also secured $1 million in federal funds to support local small businesses. “The very first bill I introduced as a member of Congress was the SelectUSA Authorization Act of 2013, which would provide incentives for global companies and investors to create jobs in the 36th District and across the United States,” noted Ruiz. “I am also proud to be a member of the bipartisan Small Business Caucus, which focuses on bringing Democrats and Republicans together to support small-business growth and development.”

On national security, Ruiz has voted to fund the military and, as opposed to opponent Stone, believes the Iran nuclear deal has made the world safer. He believes 24/7 monitoring and current inspection protocols are adequate. He cites a recent statement by the new chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, in which the general stated the Iran deal has removed the most serious danger to Israel’s existence for the foreseeable future and greatly reduced the threat over the longer term.

With regard to terrorism, Ruiz supports measures to prevent transportation of goods, money and information that feeds recruitment for and growth of terrorism, both international and domestic. “We must collaborate with other nations in the fight against terrorism,” he said. He believes it is both wrong and counterproductive to denigrate Muslims in the U.S. and that doing so helps to curtail the flow of vital information necessary to detect and stop terrorist acts within the United States.

In Syria and Iraq, he stated the U.S. must work toward a diplomatic solution to defeat ISIS. He supports airstrikes and a no-fly zone but opposes boots on the ground. “We must work with all stakeholders to reach a diplomatic solution,” he said.

With regard to the Affordable Care Act, he acknowledged that premiums will rise next year but also noted that subsidies are set to increase. He said he would continue to press for improvements to the ACA while maintaining coverage for millions of the newly insured.

“The reasons premiums are going up is that health-care costs are out of control,” he said. He supports allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. He also supports making more information regarding pricing for health procedures available to consumers. “Consumers should know how much certain operations and procedures will cost, and have conversations with their doctors prior to operations.” In July, Ruiz introduced H.R. 5772, the BENES Act of 2016, that would establish a system to educate individuals approaching Medicare eligibility to simplify and modernize the eligibility enrollment process, and to provide for complaints and requests of Medicare beneficiaries that related to their Medicare enrollment.

He notes, with satisfaction, that Congress finally authorized $1.1 billion to fight the spread of the Zika virus. “I have always viewed the threat as far more serious than the current Republican congressional leadership,” said Ruiz. “I was disappointed with the riders attached to the original bill. With the recent passage authorizing the $1.1 billion, we need to learn from the experience of delaying passage. We should have been out in front of responding to a potential pandemic rather than being reactive.”

He said he hopes election of a Democratic president, and appointment of new Supreme Court justices, will allow the overturn of Citizens United. “We need to have more transparency in where funds are coming from with super PACs and to have the names of key donors available for the public to view.” To that effect, Ruiz introduced in July of this year the Campaign Spending Integrity Act.

Asked whether he would support public financing for political campaigns, Ruiz said, in principal, he would, depending on how the proposal or bill was drafted.

On gun control, Ruiz argues for a “common-sense” policy, including a ban on gun purchases by those on the federal “no-fly” list; universal background checks; closing of loopholes in sales at gun shows; and restricting possession by “high-risk” individuals, such as the mentally ill, violent offenders and criminals with prior illegal gun use records.

On immigration, Ruiz supports a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented individuals in the U.S. so long as they have been law-abiding, productive members of society. With regard to refugees from Syria, Ruiz would increase the flow for humanitarian reasons as long as entrants are properly vetted.

Ruiz is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans. He also sits on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. As a Congressman, Ruiz has sponsored bills in the following areas: armed forces and national security (24%), health (21%), Native Americans (15%), government operations and politics (12%), public lands and natural resources (9%), labor and employment (9%), international affairs (6%) and commerce (6%).