After his hard-fought campaign and come-from-behind victory, Dr. Raul Ruiz was sworn in to the United States House of Representatives as a member of the 113th Congress on January 3.
Rep. Ruiz, who grew up in Coachella and went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School, took a moment to answer questions from Coachella Unincorporated. He tells us how Eastern Coachella Valley residents helped energize his campaign, his goals for the next two years, and his message for the young people of this community.
Coachella Unincorporated: Reflecting on your campaign journey, at which point did you believe you would make it to Congress – from the beginning, or somewhere along the way?
Rep. Raul Ruiz: From the very beginning we knew that winning was a possibility if we worked hard and worked together as a community. We put together a winning team and had a people-driven, community-focused campaign that brought people together to work for a common cause. It wasn’t until we gained so much support and momentum in the later part of the campaign that other people saw victory as a possibility for us. What was initially an inspiring possibility became a very real opportunity.
CU: Your campaign energized voters across the Coachella Valley. How much of a role did the Eastern Coachella Valley play in your victory? What has been your experience with community residents since the election?
RR: The Eastern Coachella Valley played a very big role in energizing voters and helping get out the vote. I am so proud of the Coachella youth who volunteered with our campaign and participated in our summer youth internships. We will also have youth internships available for our 2014 campaign and hope that we can have a high level of involvement from young people again.
Community residents have been overwhelmingly supportive. Things feel different now, and I am proud to be a part of that positive change. People are realizing that they have a voice now and they are part of the democratic process and part of the solution.
CU: Growing up in Coachella, and having seen some of the area’s disadvantages up close, to which issues are you enthusiastic to bring attention and action?
RR: I am eager to bring attention and action to the most pressing issues facing our communities today. We need to ensure that all people, regardless of where they grew up or their background, have an equal opportunity at success and an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream. I am focused on creating jobs, especially through green energy, providing high quality educational opportunities, and improving our health care system. There is so much work to be done here and it will take all members of the community working together to achieve progress.
CU: What are your main goals and priorities for your first term?
RR: My top priority as a Member of Congress is working on behalf the people I was elected to represent. My offices in California and in Washington will be aggressively focused on constituent services and I will be very active in communities across my district. In Washington, I will be focused on working with members of both political parties to change the way things are done in Washington. We must speak the language of cooperation, not confrontation. Washington has become ineffective because it is consumed by partisan rhetoric and political gamesmanship. As a doctor, I am focused on solutions, and that’s what I will be focused on in Congress. I will also be focused on my work on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The top policy issues I will be focused on are job creation and economic growth, improving education and health care, and expanding the use of green energy in the 36th District and across the country.
CU: Many young people became involved with your campaign. As you begin your Congressional career, do you have a message for the youth of the Eastern Coachella Valley?
RR: My message for the youth would be “We did it! And this is only the beginning.” You were a critical component of my race and a key reason I was successful and I want you to stay involved. My offices are here to provide you with new opportunities to be a part of what we’re doing in the community. We will have leadership opportunities in the future that I would like you to participate in. This is a place where you can dream the impossible and accomplish it. We are the captains of our own destiny and the architects of our own lives. You may never realize the potential you have to succeed until you try. Remember, all things are possible.
- Brenda Rincon and Aurora Saldivar, Coachella Unincorporated