Rep. Raul Ruiz may be a political novice, but he’s raising campaign cash like a pro.
The Palm Desert Democrat raised more money than about 90 percent of House members in the first three months of the year, according to Federal Election Commission data released Tuesday.
The former emergency room doctor, who upset veteran GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in November, was the third-highest fundraiser among California’s 53 House members this year, according to Gannett’s analysis of FEC data.
Ruiz raised $344,292 in the Jan. 1-March 31 quarter — the 36th-highest total among 430 House members who filed campaign-finance reports this year, according to the lawmakers’ latest federal campaign filings.
“He’s doing very well,” said Viveca Novak, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics.
“When somebody raises a lot of money like this, even if it’s a freshman, it’s going to be daunting for a potential challenger. You kind of wonder, ‘OK, where am I going to get my bucks?’ ”
Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, said Ruiz needs to raise $1 million or more by November 2014 to defend his seat.
That’s not an exorbitant amount. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, House incumbents spent an average $1.7 million to defend their seats in 2012. More than $6 million was spent in the race between Ruiz and Bono Mack, making it the most expensive local race ever. About $2 million came from outside spending — much of it from national Democrat and Republican groups.
Ruiz also can’t expect that his supporters will turn out in large numbers in 2014, when there won’t be a presidential contest to spur high voter-participation levels, Pitney said.