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6 things you probably didn't know about the Californians in Congress

6 things you probably didn't know about the Californians in Congress
Members of Congress, including Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, front center, leave the Capitol for Thanksgiving recess following passage of tax reform. (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

California’s 55 members of Congress make up the largest and most diverse delegation in the country.

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Here’s six things you may not know about them:

1. ‘The Big Lebowski’ as the go-to gift

One of Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Burbank) favorite movies is “The Big Lebowski,” and he often gives members of his staff a copy for the holidays. The former prosecutor known for his role leading Democrats on the House Select Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election represents Hollywood. He’s a bit of a movie buff, and sees as many movies in theaters as he can.

2. Is there a doctor on the plane?

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert) has been called on to provide medical assistance on his frequent cross-country flights three times since he was elected in 2012, including when he treated a man who fainted in 2013 and a woman who had a seizure in 2014.

The Harvard-educated emergency room physician’s most recent call to duty was on Dec. 11, when he helped a passenger control bleeding from a cut on his hand.

3. Purple Hearts

Nine of California’s 55 members are veterans or are still serving in the military.

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star Medal for his service during Vietnam. He retired as a Marine Corps colonel in 1992 after 26 years in the military.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) received a Purple Heart for wounds he received as an Army staff sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Vietnam. He also was an instructor at the Army’s Airborne School and was the first Vietnam War veteran elected to the state Senate.

Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, prepares a hot dog during the American Meat Institute's annual Hot Dog Lunch.
Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk, prepares a hot dog during the American Meat Institute's annual Hot Dog Lunch. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

4. Kitchen skills

Several members of the California delegation are known for their cooking.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) holds occasional mid-week cooking lessons for her staff and makes a legendary guacamole that’s earned her friends across the political spectrum.

The state’s junior senator, Kamala Harris, scrolls through recipes on her phone as she waits for committee meetings to start.

5. Witnesses to history

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) was 21 in 1971 when three men who were wanted in the shooting death of a New Mexico state police officer hijacked a flight he was on from Albuquerque to Chicago. The hijackers dropped off the passengers in Miami and fled to Cuba, where one is thought to still be alive.

Rep. Leo Ryan, right, on Nov. 18, 1978. With him are consultant James Schollart, left, and then-aide Jackie Speier. A group of newsmen and relatives were in Guyana on a visit to Jim Jones' Jonestown religious settlement.
Rep. Leo Ryan, right, on Nov. 18, 1978. With him are consultant James Schollart, left, and then-aide Jackie Speier. A group of newsmen and relatives were in Guyana on a visit to Jim Jones' Jonestown religious settlement. (AP)

When Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) was a congressional staffer in 1978, she was shot five times on a remote airstrip in Guyana after visiting Californians at the commune built by cult leader Jim Jones. It was the same day he and 900 of his followers died from drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

Speier’s boss, California Rep. Leo Ryan, and four others in their group were killed. Nine were injured and, along with Speier, waited almost a day for help to arrive.

6. The most ethnically diverse

Nearly one in three Latinos in Congress, and almost half of the Asian American lawmakers, represent the Golden State. Harris and Reps. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) and Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) make up 60% of the growing Indian American contingent in Congress.

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