ER doctor chosen to lead Hispanic Caucus

Bonnie Cash

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) will succeed Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) next month as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

Ruiz, the son of California farmworkers who went on to attend Harvard Medical School and become an emergency room physician, defeated Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) in Tuesday’s closed-door election for the top CHC post. The vote was 24-13, members said. 

Ruiz’s election comes as Hispanics have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hispanics make up the largest minority population in the United States. For too long, they have experienced systemic inequalities and disparities in health, health care access, education, economic opportunity, housing, environmental justice, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified those disparities with Hispanics having one of the highest rates of infections and deaths from COVID-19,” Ruiz said in a statement. 

“We must come together as a nation to rectify these inequalities; safely, rapidly and equitably end the pandemic; and build back better. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus members are amongst the most talented and respected leaders in Congress, and my goal is to amplify their collective expertise and strengths to expand our influence and ensure the promise of America is accessible to the 60 million Hispanics living in this great nation today.”

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.) also had been running for CHC chairman, but she quietly exited the race and on Tuesday secured the No. 2 spot at CHC, first vice chair.  

Others joining the CHC leadership for the 117th Congress are Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), second vice chair; Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.), whip; and Rep.-elect Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), who will serve as freshman representative.

The first vice chair for the 116th Congress, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), was well positioned to run for CHC chair, but opted instead to become chairman of the CHC’s campaign arm, Bold PAC, which will give him the opportunity to travel the country, network with donors and campaign for colleagues. 

Since his election to the House in 2012, Ruiz has been hailed as a hero on Capitol Hill and beyond for assisting multiple passengers who had fallen ill on flights that Ruiz had been on while making his weekly commutes between California and Washington. In 2013, both Ruiz and then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Texas), resuscitated a passenger on their flight. 

Those positive news headlines, plus backing from members of his large California delegation, likely helped boost Ruiz in his victory over Escobar, a former El Paso judge who has been seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She congratulated Ruiz after the election.

“I’m looking forward to working with him and the new CHC leadership team to uplift and advocate for Latino families and values,” Escobar tweeted.


Updated at 1:24 p.m.

Tags Adriano Espaillat Ben Ray Lujan CHC Congressional Hispanic Caucus Darren Soto Joaquin Castro Pete Gallego Raul Ruiz Ruben Gallego Veronica Escobar
See all Hill.TV See all Video