Calif. Loses Sole GOP Congresswoman to Newcomer Democrat

Redistricting and an enthusiastic newcomer undid seven term veteran

By Jacob Rascon and Bill French
|  Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012  |  Updated 10:16 PM PDT
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Enthusiastic political newcomer Dr. Raul Ruiz beat out veteran Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs in Tuesday's election. After an ugly campaign battle between the two candidates, Ruiz was declared the winner, but Bono Mack had yet to concede Wednesday afternoon. Jacob Rascon reports from Palm Desert for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2012.

Jacob Rascon

Enthusiastic political newcomer Dr. Raul Ruiz beat out veteran Republican Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs in Tuesday's election. After an ugly campaign battle between the two candidates, Ruiz was declared the winner, but Bono Mack had yet to concede Wednesday afternoon. Jacob Rascon reports from Palm Desert for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2012.

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Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs began her political career after her husband, Sonny Bono, was killed in a 1998 skiing accident and she rode the wave of shock and sadness to a special election victory succeeding him.

To many observers, her departure from Washington – sealed after Tuesday’s election – may seem just as sudden and shocking.

Bono Mack was California's only Republican woman in Washington, and the chances that a Democratic political newcomer would defeat her seemed remote.

But redistricting and the determination of emergency-room doctor Raul Ruiz turned it into a race.

"I've always stood up for people," Ruiz said in one TV spot. "Knocking on many doors, making many phone calls."

As of Wednesday afternoon, Mack had declined to concede the race citing uncounted ballots, according to the Los Angeles Times. At that time, Mack was trailing Ruiz by just over 4,500 votes with all precincts reporting.

The race was a bitter one. The ad campaigns were nasty. The doctor was portrayed as a radical; the incumbent as a Washington insider who had lost touch with her district.

When the candidates debated, their distaste for one another seemed obvious.

"We don’t know who you are," Bono scolded.

"You’re so out of touch, you’re so out of sight. You’re harder to find than Waldo," the doctor shot back.

An endorsement from former President Bill Clinton may have helped Ruiz. The man who overcame poverty to earn three degrees from Harvard University said his campaign came down to voter turnout, and his forces did a better job.

"We’re really proud," he said. "The victory says it all. People were really tired of that kind of politics."

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