Raul Ruiz, Brian Nestande compete over Salton Sea

If Friday’s schedules are any indication, the Salton Sea will be a major focus of next year’s congressional campaign.

Rep. Raul Ruiz and his Republican challenger, Assemblyman Brian Nestande, have scheduled competing events Friday in their respective efforts to save the dying sea.

Granted, both events are being coordinated through their legislative offices. But it’s hard to separate those platforms from what will eventually end up on campaign literature.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, will host a day-long gathering of federal dignitaries that includes U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Anne Castle.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club.

Ruiz announced his plans Wednesday.

Today, Nestande’s office put out a news release that said the Palm Desert Republican would spend Friday visiting three local high schools. He plans on touting an art contest for the new Salton Sea license plate.

If approved by lawmakers, sales from the license plates would benefit the sea’s restoration. And, out of full disclosure, The Desert Sun is supporting the contest.

Rep. Ruiz joins veterans caucus

Rep. Raul Ruiz is now a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, his office announced today.

The bicameral and bipartisan caucus formed in the last Congressional session as a way to help the more than 800,000 veterans who are unemployed nationwide, according to federal leaders. Their efforts include the “I hire veterans” initiative.

“Veterans in the 36th District and all across the United States have served our country honorably and they deserve our steadfast support,” Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, said in a statement today.

“Unfortunately, too many veterans struggle to find a good job once they return home. This caucus is taking meaningful action to find work for our returning service members, and it’s a great example of what can be achieved when members of Congress put partisanship aside and come together to support our nation’s veterans.”

On Monday, Ruiz praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for working on the backlog of benefit claims.

Federal leaders speak out

The two federal leaders who call the Coachella Valley home spoke out today on issues of national interest.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, commended the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new plan to deal with the backlog of benefit claims.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and it is unacceptable that so many of these brave men and women must wait years to access the benefits they have earned in service to our nation,” Ruiz said in a statement.

“While the VA’s new initiative is a step in the right direction toward reducing the backlog, it is not a permanent fix. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans’ organizations to find long-term solutions that will improve and streamline the benefit delivery system for our nation’s veterans and eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a moment to recognize Earth Day.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat noted that the holiday contributed to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as legislation to improve air and water.

“Over the past four decades, we have made a tremendous difference in protecting the environment and the health of our children and families,” Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“However, the growing threat of climate change puts our environment and public health at risk, and scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change continue to worsen.  …  We must do more, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.”

Mary Bono Mack breaks her wrist snowboarding, plans to work on book

Mary Bono MackFormer Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack will be spending the first weeks of her new civilian life convalescing. Bono Mack broke her wrist over the weekend while trying her hand(s) at snowboarding at a Colorado ski resort. But the injury won’t stop her from working on a new project: a book.
Bono Mack was, according to her official Twitter account, vacationing at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort with husband Connie Mack when the incident happened.

First (above), Bono Mack tweeted about giving snowboarding a try on January 18. Then, on Sunday (Jan. 20), Bono Mack tweeted to share news of her injury with her 10,751 followers.

Her followers were quick to send their best wishes for a speedy recovery, with one even suggesting she seek medical attention from her Congressional successor, Dr. Raul Ruiz.

“Maybe Congressman Dr Ruiz can take a look at it ?! ;o),” tweeted DustDevil65.
Bono Mack recently told The Desert Sun’s Bruce Fessier she was working with a literary agent and was in talks with several cable news networks about a possible on-air gig with her husband.

Obama inauguration ticket request process announced

Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009, as his wife, Michelle, holds the Lincoln Bible and daughters Sasha, right and Malia, watch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.  (Chuck Kennedy, pool via AP)

Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009, as his wife, Michelle, holds the Lincoln Bible and daughters Sasha, right and Malia, watch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Tickets for Obama's second, smaller inauguration are available through Rep. Raul Ruiz's office. (Chuck Kennedy, pool via AP)

The Palm Springs High School band has been invited to march in Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade, and Bill Clinton will be heading to the inauguration from the Humana Challenge since he’s chairiman of the event.

Want to join them for the festivities Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.? Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat who represents the Coachella Valley, has announced how his constituents can request inauguration tickets.

Ruiz’s office asked anyone wanting tickets — limited to two per person — to email CA36.Inauguration@mail.house.gov by Thursday with this information:
• Name
• Address
• Phone number
• Number of tickets requested

Tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the congressman’s office.

Information: (202) 225-5330

Raul Ruiz: Congressional office ready; NPR profiles freshman congressman

Incoming Rep. Raul Ruiz's Congressional office, as seen Wednesday (photo submitted by Greg Rodriguez)

On the eve of Dr. Raul Ruiz swearing into Congress, his office — and his plaque — are ready for showtime.

This photograph outside his new office, 1319 Longworth Building, circulated on Facebook today.

Ruiz will take the oath of office Thursday as a freshman member of the 113th Congress. It will mark the first time since 1998 that the Coachella Valley is represented by a new lawmaker in Washington.

Over the weekend, NPR’s Weekend Edition profiled Ruiz as part of a series of profiles of “the most diverse (freshman class) in congressional history.”

The four-minute segment that aired Saturday focuses primarily on Ruiz’s busy schedule and his life story.

“Ruiz’s personality — upbeat and inclusive — earned him voter approval across ethnic lines, and it didn’t hurt that he had a life story that resonated with an electorate that was growing more diverse each year,”  NPR’s Karen Grisby Bates said.

She summed up the race between Ruiz and outgoing Rep. Mary Bono Mack: “It was a nasty campaign.”

NPR also played audio from the only debate of the season, which was co-hosted Oct. 12 by The Desert Sun.

“Raul Ruiz says it pains him to leave his patients and community, but although he’s off to Congress he’s not giving up medicine completely,” she said. “He’s already making plans to volunteer in physician-short parts of DC in his spare time. How much of that he’ll have, though, is anybody’s guess.”

The audio and transcript are available here.

Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz lands first post

Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz today announced he’s been named to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat who is sworn-in on Jan. 3, said in a statement that he requested the committee assignment because it handles issues important to the 36th Congressional District.

“This committee is a great fit for the needs of our district,” Ruiz said in a statement today.

“It will allow me to help our alternative energy companies grow and create new jobs. It will give me a platform to push for restoration of the Salton Sea. And, it will let me work on many of the most important issues facing our local tribes.”

The committee’s jurisdiction includes energy production, public lands and issues regarding American Indians.

“My goal is to use this committee to help our area become a national leader in creating alternative energy jobs,” Ruiz said in the statement.

“Alternative energy like wind and solar is not only good for the economy, it also reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and reduces the threat of global warming.”

Raul Ruiz: Time to look at availability of ‘automatic weapons of war’

As the country still comes to grasps with the massive school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz today said it was time for the country to have a “serious conversation” about the accessibility of “automatic weapons of war.”

The Palm Desert Democrat’s comments echoed those of other federal leaders, who have increasingly called for bans on assault weapons and on high-capacity magazines.

“These weapons that are designed for war shouldn’t be in the hands or shouldn’t be in the streets,” Ruiz told The Desert Sun today.

“We respect people’s right to own guns in sports, for sporting reasons. But we have to really evaluate the cost of that to our nation’s homicide rates and the violence that we have in America.”

Ruiz first broached the politically-divisive topic of gun control while headlining a Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which was attended by about 170 people today.

He opened the half-hour talk by calling for a moment of silence for the 20 students and six adults killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman also killed his mother before turning the weapon on himself.

Ruiz told the crowd that he would be a ““strong advocate to help reduce the amount of violence.”

“Americans throughout felt the pain of this shooting,” Ruiz later said. “We are all mourning. And we’re all ready for change.”

Raul Ruiz prepares for swearing-in

Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz is in the district this week, but his aides are busy preparing for the Jan. 3 swearing-in ceremony.

Ruiz’s campaign today invited supporters to join the Palm Desert Democrat in Washington, when the newly-elected leader of the 36th Congressional District joins the 113th Congress.

According to the invitation, a viewing party will be held that morning at Ruiz’s new office, 1319 Longworth Building. Throughout the afternoon, Ruiz’s office will host an open house and aides will provide Capitol tours.

Supporters interested in attending are encouraged to email the campaign at info@drraulruiz.com

Ruiz’s campaign has remained tight-lipped about all staff hires, either in Washington or in the desert. Ruiz has yet to annouce where his desert offices will be located.

He technically doesn’t have an office budget until he takes the oath on Jan. 3, although outgoing Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s office is expected to be closed before then.

District director Marc Troast intially told The Desert Sun the Republican’s Palm Desert office might be shuttered last Friday.

But that date came and went, and Troast now says the office at 36953 Cook Street will be open through this week at least.

Ruiz has told The Desert Sun that he would have “a very aggressive, engaged congressional office.”

“We have a strategic plan to get to January, so that once we start, we start with our feet on the ground and working hard,” Ruiz previously said.

“And I’m very motivated to roll up my sleeves again and start working hard with everyone in this district and really making a change.”

Mary Bono Mack: Post-election ‘grieving period’ over

Outgoing Reps. Mary Bono Mack and Connie Mack continued their national media tour today, this time appearing on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown.

The married congressional couple both lost their respective election bids last month: Local voters favored Democrat Raul Ruiz to Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican. And Florida voters chose to retain U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson instead of send Mack, a Republican, to the U.S. Senate.

Bono Mack didn’t spill the beans on any post-House plans, although she has been elected to the board of the national Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a grieving period when you lose an election but I think I’ve worked quickly through that point and I’m very excited about my next chapter in my life,” Bono Mack said during the MSNBC interview today.

Bono Mack also was quick to respond to show host Chuck Todd’s question about what lessons she would take into another campaign.

Her biggest takeaway? “Not to run again for office,” she quipped.

You can see the interview here.