Adventists in the U.S. Congress Re-elected
by Monte Sahlin
By AT News Team, November 12, 2014
The two Adventists who serve as elected members of the United States Congress won new terms in last week's national election. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston and Representative Raul Ruiz from the Coachella Valley in southern California are both members of the Democratic Party and won despite the nationwide "wave" for the Republican Party.
Ruiz is a physician first elected two years ago, defeating incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack, a Republican and widow of the famous pop singer Sonny Bono who entered politics after his singing career ended and served in the same seat up to the time of his death. Ruiz beat Brian Nestande, a member of the state legislature, in California's 36th Federal Congressional District.
In his victory speech, Ruiz announced that he and wife Monica are expecting twins in April. He told his constituents he will continue to push for immigration reform, for support for veterans and seniors and "equality for everyone." He also reached out to Nestande's supporters; "My door is open. I want to hear your concerns, I want to understand your views," he said. Her served as associate dean for the School of Medicine at the University of California Riverside prior to running for Congress.
Lee defeated Sean Seibert in Texas' 18th District with 72 percent of the vote. She was first elected to Congress in 1994. After two decades she is a powerful member of the national legislature in America serving on committees that oversee foreign affairs and homeland security. She is currently working for the passage of a law against bullying, led the fight for passage of the Fair Sentencing Act and gathered unanimous support to amend the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill that creates a day of honor for the return of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lee earned a college degree in political science from Yale University and a law degree from the University of Virginia. She is married to Dr. Elwyn Lee, an administrator at the University of Houston, and the couple has two adult children.
Officials of the Southeastern California Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination declined to identify which local church Ruiz belongs to although they did acknowledge that he is an Adventist. The denomination's South West Region Conference gave much the same response to an inquiry about Lee.
Ruiz is Hispanic and Lee is an African American. Adventists in the United States are well represented in both ethnic minority groups and have had significant growth among both communities. For decades there were two Adventists in the U.S. Congress who were both male, both white and both from the Republican Party.
The re-election of these two public servants is an indicator of the demographic changes occurring among American Adventists. It may also point toward cultural changes among Adventists as the majority in the U.S. Congress moves in a more conservative and nationalist direction, but Adventist elected officials are not part of it.