Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, took an early lead Tuesday evening in his quest for a fifth term representing much of Riverside County in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Early election results for the 36th Congressional District show Ruiz collected 63.8% of the vote compared to 36.2% gathered by his Republican challenger, Erin Cruz of Palm Springs — a difference of 38,037 votes.

Ruiz snatched the district from Republican Mary Bono in an upset win in 2012, triggering an era of Democratic reign in a district traditionally controlled by Republicans. He has since secured multiple double-digit reelection victories.

The 36th District stretches across much of Riverside County, from San Jacinto east to California’s border with Arizona.

Ruiz — a physician who grew up in the eastern Coachella Valley — collected nearly 61% of the vote in the March primary. Cruz — an author and political commentator — finished in a distant second place with about 21%, but placed well ahead of two other GOP contestants.

Ruiz is running on a platform that spotlights his work supporting veterans, fighting for affordable healthcare and protecting against cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Ruiz worked as an emergency room doctor before transitioning into politics.

“In the ER, I learned that life-and-death situations require working as a team. We don’t put ourselves or our ideological opinions first. We treat the patient and solve the problems,” Ruiz says in his campaign literature. “That’s the same approach I’ve brought to Congress to find bipartisan solutions that keep Americans safe and get real results for our local communities.”

Cruz, who previously ran for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018, is running on a standard conservative platform that includes calls to reduce taxes, cut regulations and boost border security. Cruz has authored several books, including “Revolution America,” which is geared toward conservative American women.

“For Erin, a Native Californian, watching California deteriorate is deeply concerning. From crumbling infrastructure to rising homelessness, rising crime to out-of-control spending, the constant barrage of tax burden placed on the people is out of control,” Cruz says in her campaign literature. “We need a solution to the division among social and political groups to get the work done.”

One area where Ruiz and Cruz seem to diverge most noticeably is in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite securing few coronavirus-related legislative victories that could survive the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, Ruiz has been a vocal proponent, both nationally and locally, of using science as a guide to reopening.

Cruz, on the other hand, has voiced support for leaving it up to the individual — not government — in deciding to reopen. Cruz has also publicly lauded President Donald Trump’s move to shut down sectors of international travel early in the pandemic, and has even suggested recently she would have acted more aggressively in that regard.

In August, Ruiz turned his attention to Coachella Valley agricultural workers, citing studies that showed the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on that population. Ruiz, who was raised by farm workers, subsequently deployed to several communities in his district to administer coronavirus tests to these workers.

Ruiz’s science-based perspective on reopening went on public display locally over the summer, when he blasted the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for voting to nix several protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus at the time.

Cruz, meanwhile, has been a consistent voice against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pandemic-related response. She agues in campaign literature that individual counties should decide how to open, not Sacramento. She is no stranger to rallying against the governor. Last year, she launched a recall effort, which fell short of the required amount of signatures needed to be placed on the ballot.

More information about the Ruiz campaign is available at drraulruiz.com/.

The portal for Cruz’s campaign is erincruz.org/.

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