Nov. 7, 2012 – 4:32 p.m.

113th Congress: Raul Ruiz, D-Calif. (36th District)

Raul Ruiz is sure to get ample national attention because of his unusual-for-Congress backstory: A son of migrant farm workers, he persuaded local business owners to donate $2,500 toward his first college payment by promising to return home as a physician. He was back 17 years later as a local emergency room doctor — and Harvard officials believe he is the first Hispanic to earn three degrees from the university.

Ruiz says his first-term focus would be to leverage his celebrity and new congressional clout to diversify the economy of the Coachella Valley, a vast expanse of fruit and vegetable fields between Los Angeles and Arizona. He wants to help bring federal medical research, as well as more spending on wind and solar power, to the area.

He looks to be a reliable, left-leaning vote for the party leadership. He advocates more federal spending on education and veterans’ programs, gay marriage, an accelerated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent for those earning at least $1 million a year. Like many Democrats, he says his main prescription for slowing the growth of Medicare is to allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices. Like many physicians (but not very many Democrats), he says the other big step toward controlling health costs should be curbing medical malpractice litigation and damage awards.

He says he’ll seek committee assignments that give him a hand in shaping health and education policies.