Political novice Raul Ruiz, the Harvard-educated emergency room doctor and son of migrant farm workers, has scored the Congressional upset of the ages in California. He is now one of the four newly elected Latino congressmen in California.
Raul Ruiz, a Democrat, defeated seven-term Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack in the 36th Congressional District in the Coachella Valley.
Ruiz would become California’s fourth new Latino congressman elected Tuesday, joining Tony Cardenas, a Los Angeles City Councilman, Juan Vargas, a state senator from San Diego, and Gloria Negrete McLeod of the Inland Empire.
Four newly elected Latino Congressmen
Tony Cardenas easily swept to victory on Tuesday in the newly revamped 29th Congressional District that had been specially created for a Latino Democrat.
Juan Vargas, a state senator and the son of braceros, in his fourth race for the House defeated Republican Michael Crimmins to win the open 51st District seat that includes part of San Diego along the Mexican border.
Gloria Negrete McLeod – a state senator from Chino – unseated seven-term incumbent Rep. Joe Baca in the 35th Congressional District in a battle of Democrats in the San Bernardino area, according to late returns Wednesday morning.
Although Baca was the favorite, Negrete McLeod benefited from the support of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose Super PAC spent more than $3 million on her behalf. Baca became a target because of his perceived weakness on gun control laws.
But it was Ruiz’s upset that had the California political world shaking its head as Bono Mack was one of the state delegation’s most entrench members.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Ruiz had 51.4 percent of the vote, with Bono Mack at 48.6 percent, officially making him one of the newly elected Latino Congressmen.
“Because of you, we had a chance to do what no one thought we could,” Ruiz told cheering supporters at his victory rally.
A disappointed Bono Mack, who won the seat in 1998 after the sudden death of her then former entertainer husband Sonny Bono, all but conceded the race shortly after midnight Wednesday.
“Historically speaking, he will win,” she told reporters. “I suppose it’s too early to say, but historically, the trends would say the numbers will continue to go the way their going.
“The results of the country were not what I wanted.”
Election officials have cautioned that counting the votes could take some time this year because more Californians than ever are voting by mail. More than 9 million ballots were mailed to voters, and 3.2 million had been returned by Saturday, officials said.
It could take up to a couple of weeks to get results in any races that are particularly tight, according the secretary of state’s office.
For Cardenas, though, the outcome had been all but official for some time. He had been so confident that he had hit the campaign trail to help other candidates.
“I had no thought of running for Congress,” Cardenas said in talking about how he had seemingly stumbled on to making the run for the House. “I served six years in the state Assembly and three terms here at City Hall, and I was beginning to think of what’s next?”
The son of an immigrant California farm worker, Cardenas called his likely election “a historic opportunity for (San Fernando) Valley Latinos to have a strong and unified voice in Congress for the first time.”
“The opportunity to be the valley’s first Latino Congressional representative is humbling,” he said, “and I’m proud that so many diverse leaders have come together to support this campaign.”
Cardenas’ rise to Congress marks a decade-long process by civil rights groups pressing for a Hispanic district in the San Fernando Valley, once known as Reagan Country for its conservatism and largely white population but where Latinos now outnumber non-Hispanics.
Once the new district was approved, a slew of political leaders rallied around Cardenas, including the California Democratic Party and SEIU California, the state’s largest union.
Cardenas is one of 11 children of Andres Cardenas and Maria Quezada, who immigrated after marrying in Jalisco, Mexico in 1946. Andres Cardenas worked in the California agricultural fields before settling the family in Pacoima in the San Fernando Valley.
The younger Cardenas was elected to the California State Assembly for three consecutive terms. In 2003, he was elected to the Los Angeles City Council and re-elected in 2007 and 2011.
Among Cardenas’ legislative achievements has been a landmark crime prevention measure on gang interventionthat keeps at-risk youth off the street by providing alternatives to gangs while increasing community and public safety resources for local policing.
“Time and again Tony Cardenas has brought stakeholders together to solve our most difficult problems from authoring groundbreaking gang intervention legislation in the legislature to reforming the business tax code to create local jobs here on the City Council,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said of his longtime City Hall ally.
“Tony Cardenas has always been a champion Valley families can count on, and in Congress he’ll make sure the Valley is never left behind.”
Other Latino congressmen
In winning, the four new Latino congressmen join the state’s 53-member Congressional delegation whose Hispanic roll call from Southern California alone includes Reps. Lucille Roybal Allard, Loretta and Linda Sanchez, Grace Napolitano and Xavier Becerra who all won re-election.
As the fifth most powerful among the 190 Democrats in the House, Becerra was recently named the vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.