Ruiz or Ruiz? Name game complicates race for US congress seat

US House Democrat Raul Ruiz of California, seen here at a gala in 2013, is facing a challenge for his congressional seat by a Republican with the same name (AFP Photo/Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Washington (AFP) - US congressman Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat, is facing a challenge for his seat by a Republican businessman named -- wait for it -- Raul Ruiz.

The 47-year-old representative for the state's 36th district, a Harvard-educated physician, has handily won re-election every two years since entering Congress in 2013.

But the 2020 race might erase, or at least complicate, one of Ruiz's main advantages: name recognition.

On Thursday his largely unknown challenger, who was homeless for a time, according to his website, released a campaign launch video, a 40-second online clip that identifies him as "the Right Raul Ruiz for Congress."

"I grew up picking vegetables in the fields that feed America, dreaming up my own American Dream," Ruiz said, adding that he later became a carpenter who started a business that employed hundreds.

In his bio the challenger writes that congressman Ruiz and "radical liberals want to use handouts to keep people dependent on the government and rob them of their shot at the American Dream."

Republicans ceded House of Representatives control to the Democrats in January following midterm elections. They seek to reclaim the chamber in 2020, hoping President Donald Trump's re-election bid will help the party in its congressional races.