----------PAST KEY RACES----------
California’s 36th District is massive, beginning at the Arizona border and stretching westward across Riverside County. It takes in Palm Springs before continuing westward to include San Jacinto. The Inland Empire, as this area of the state is called, is historically Republican – it gave Ronald Reagan 65 percent of the vote in 1984 – but has been trending Democratic.
The district was represented in Congress by Mary Bono Mack, who succeeded her first husband, Sonny Bono, in Congress after his 1998 death in a skiing accident. Redistricting shored up the Republican percentages in the district, but a strong effort by Democrat Raul Ruiz pushed him over the top by five points, even as Barack Obama was running behind his national average here.
This cycle, Ruiz faces Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande. Ruiz’s surprisingly strong performance in the June primary suggests that he is a stronger-than-expected favorite for re-election, although he’s hardly sewn this race up yet.