November 7, 2012 Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, who is trailing Democrat Raul Ruiz by just over 4,500 votes with all precincts reporting, on Wednesday declined to concede defeat because of a large number of ballots that have yet to be tallied. “With more than 180,000 ballots still to be counted around Riverside County, it is premature to consider any election results final," said Marc Troast, the congresswoman’s political director. “Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and her campaign will be awaiting the impact of this large number of remaining ballots before making any further statements on the 36th Congressional District race.” The number of uncounted ballots Troast mentioned is the countywide total, not the number of uncounted ballots in the much smaller area of the 36th Congressional District. A representative of the Riverside County Registrar of Voters said the office did not have an estimate for the number of uncounted ballots in that congressional district. It's common to have uncounted ballots remaining in the days or weeks after a major election. They include mail-in ballots that arrived on election day, plus provisional or damaged ballots that must be inspected by election officials. Ruiz, an emergency room doctor, grew up in the Coachella Valley as the son of a farm workers and he has been an active proponent of providing greater medical care to the underserved area. This was Ruiz's first political campaign, and he proved to be the toughest challenger Bono Mack has faced in her 14-year congressional career. Bono Mack was first elected to replace her husband, singer Sonny Bono, in Congress after his death in a skiing accident. Bono Mack had attacked Ruiz as a “radical” for taking part in a Native American protest of Thanksgiving when he was a Harvard medical student in the late 1990s, including reading a letter written by a Zapatista rebel leader from Chiapas, Mexico, in support of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Ruiz attacked Bono Mack for supporting the budget plan of GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which he said would decimate Medicare. The Democratic Party also has aired television ads criticizing Bono Mack for benefiting from tax breaks for Florida residents. The parties and outside political groups have spent more than $3.3 million on the race.
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