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- U.S. Representative from California
For the first time in nearly a decade, Palm Springs and other western Coachella Valley cities are set to choose a new representative in Congress in November 2022.
U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Democrat who lives in La Quinta with an office in Palm Desert, plans to run in a new district set to be approved through redistricting that will encompass the eastern Coachella Valley, all of Imperial County and a sliver of eastern San Bernardino County — and he might be joined in the race by another prominent east valley politician, Democratic Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.
Ruiz, who has represented the entire Coachella Valley since winning an upset bid against Republican Mary Bono in 2012, told The Desert Sun of his plans Thursday, with California’s redistricting commission set to finalize its draft maps next week.
“I grew up in Coachella. My mother still lives in Coachella, and the issues of social justice, of disparities in health care, disparities in opportunity were what motivated me to run in the first place,” Ruiz said. “So, I decided to run in that district, but it breaks my heart that I wouldn't be casting a vote representing the people in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta and Palm Desert.”
Under current draft maps, a pair of west valley cities — Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs — would still fall into the district that Ruiz will run in, though the Democratic congressman acknowledged the district’s precise boundaries could still see “a few tweaks here and there” before the Dec. 27 deadline for map approval.
The cities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, La Quinta and Indian Wells, meanwhile, are poised to fall into a district with Lake Elsinore and Menifee in western Riverside County. The district would also include Corona, the home base of Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, a long-time veteran of Congress.
Ruiz said his re-election decision was driven by his Coachella roots, rather than who he would be running against, noting he already represents a large share of people in the new east valley district.
“If I thought that I would have to run against Ken Calvert, I would run against Ken Calvert, but that's not the case in this case,” Ruiz said.
Congressional candidates are also allowed to run in districts where they don’t live. However, Ruiz, who currently lives in La Quinta, left open the possibility of moving into the district where he will be seeking re-election in 2022.
“My wife and I were planning on moving in about a couple years anyhow, so I think we might just speed it up,” Ruiz said. “That's definitely a possibility that we're discussing now.”
While the redistricting proposals have yet to be finalized, Ruiz said he wanted to inform the Coachella Valley community “sooner rather than later,” adding that he’s spoken with some elected leaders in cities he would no longer represent.
“They aren't very pleased that they would lose me as a representative, and I wanted to reassure them that they're not losing me as an advocate, and they're not losing me as a friend,” Ruiz said. “I reassured them that my efforts to serve our veterans and our seniors will continue, and the programs that I have already initiated that serve the whole Coachella Valley will continue.”
Ruiz noted he already has connections to Imperial County, pointing to his advocacy work involving the Salton Sea, which straddles the two counties. As drawn, the new congressional district would also stretch up to Needles in eastern San Bernardino County, though Ruiz said he has not yet been able to connect with officials up there.
While the new district boundaries could still shift, at least two Democrats — Menifee resident Brandon Mosely and Riverside-based engineer Shrina Kurani — have announced his intention to run in the congressional district encompassing Palm Springs, while Storm Jenkins, a gun store owner in Palm Desert, announced his intention to run as a Republican in October.
Ruiz, who has risen the ranks in D.C. to chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this year, said he was hopeful that the Coachella Valley will maintain its sense of community despite splitting through redistricting.
“It's just bizarre (the way they did this), and it's unfortunate that the Coachella Valley isn't in one district as it has been,” Ruiz said.
Eduardo Garcia: 'I have not ruled anything out' on possible congressional run
Ruiz soon could be joined in the race by another prominent east valley politician: state Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat who previously served as the mayor of Coachella.
Garcia, who was elected to the state Assembly in 2014, told The Desert Sun in a statement that he is leaving open the possibility of running against Ruiz in 2022.
"I have not ruled anything out, including continuing for assembly or running in the same congressional district as Congressman Ruiz, giving voters of this new district the option to choose their representative," Garcia said in a statement. "This new congressional seat resembles the constituency I have served faithfully and brought significant investment to over the years — allowing us to amplify our policy efforts at the federal level."
"Ideally, Congressman Ruiz and I could consider running for the two separate, adjoining districts we live in to strengthen, together, our region’s voice," Garcia continued. "At this point, nothing has been ruled out, and I await the final maps to see where I might best serve our community.”
Garcia received some encouragement Thursday from Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, who said on Facebook that he would like to see his mayor predecessor elected to Washington.
"As redistricting is coming to a close, it is pretty amazing to know that we can have two Congress Members coming out of the City of Coachella," Hernandez said in the post. "I have great respect and appreciate everything former Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia has done for us in Coachella as an Assembly Member and mayor."
"I want to highly encourage Eduardo Garcia to run for Congress," he added. "You have my full support. I know you will continue to elevate the east end of the Coachella Valley."
The question of whether Garcia will run directly against Ruiz should become clearer in the coming days, with the California Citizens Redistricting Commission set to certify its final maps by Dec. 27.
Tom Coulter covers politics. He can be reached at email@example.com or 442-241-4999.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Rep. Ruiz to run in east valley congressional district in 2022