CD2 GOP candidates

Eric Ruden

Eric Ruden is among four Republican candidates in the Congressional District 2 race and says he jumped in because he was “stunned at how unqualified the field was.”

The field was a lot bigger six months ago; quite a few have dropped out since. It’s now down to Ruden (who will be Noran Eric Ruden on the ballot), Brandon Martin and Joseph Morgan. Jordan Flayer registered as a write-in candidate.

But while Ruden can be pointed when he wants, don’t mistake that for brash or overbearing. He’s not.

Ruden’s 45, has a 20-year-old daughter who’s aiming for med school, and has an impressive pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story.

Ruden has been in Tucson since he was 1; he’s third generation. He started working for his grandmother when he was 14, cleaning abandoned homes for the VA. He moved out of the house at 17 and worked 60 hours a week at a restaurant to support himself — busing tables, prep line, dishwasher and cook. He did that about three years and along the way earned his GED.

He applied for a pest control job making six bucks an hour, and climbed to vice president at the second company he worked for. That company — Northwest Exterminating — went from 20 to 100 employees, he says. At some point he decided pest control would be his career, and he paid his own way to conferences to learn as much as he could.

He went to college, got a degree and 13 years ago bought his first company, Essential Pest Control. It must be pretty successful because he has dumped a boatload of his own money into his campaign. He, by far, has more in the kitty than his competitors (about $235,000 as of March 31; new reports due soon. Brandon Martin, in second place, had about $98,000).

This is his first run at office and Ruden — who came out of nowhere — says he’s not riding President Trump’s coattails.

“I am my own candidate and I’m running to help Southern Arizona,” he told me. “I just want do better for our community.”

That said, he sounds a lot like the president on pretty much every issue.

•We spoke early in the coronavirus outbreak and at that point he said the president had done pretty much everything right, including the travel ban on China on Jan. 31. (It was, more accurately, restrictions — not a ban — that still allowed hundreds of planes from China to land in the U.S.)

•“I don’t think canceling the economy is the right way to deal with things,” he said of the outbreak. He would restrict access to elder care facilities and isolate the most vulnerable. He’d also rely on the nation’s top-flight healthcare to deal with things.

•While unpopular at times, he says the president’s policies “are generally beneficial in the long term.”

•He said the virus is being politicized and “will be used as a political weapon.” (Hey, he called that one.)

•Immigration: “I believe we need to enforce current immigration laws, devise a plan to address the 10 million illegals in the country, and support Trump’s current enforcement strategies including a border wall. Real solutions will require both parties to work together.” He said the wall will not keep people out but will slow them down.

•He would not have voted to impeach Trump and calls the charges “a sham.” He said the phone call with the president of Ukraine that got the impeachment ball rolling was not troublesome. “Not because of the content,” he said. “Those are happening every single day. I guess I’m so jaded that it didn’t raise an eyebrow.”

• He agrees Medicare and Social Security are big issues: “If we do nothing, the benefits will have to be reduced.” (No, he doesn’t want that to happen.)

•He appeared in a mid-January debate in front of about 50 Republicans that was closed to the press and public. He didn’t even have a website yet, according to blogger Larry Bodine, who obtained a recording of the debate. (A week later in a press release, Ruden called for future debates to be accessible to all…) At the debate, he said he is pro-life and that Planned Parenthood should receive no federal funds, according to Bodine. But, he added, “I really dislike this issue. It divides our country. Am I going to die on the sword of that particular issue? I probably won’t.”

Ruden sounds a lot like Trump on the issues but they part ways in one area: Ruden doesn’t give the sense he has it all figured out. He’s thoughtful, articulate and polite. He clearly cares about Arizona, knows the issues and shows a lot of compassion.

If he gets through the primary, he could give Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick a good run.

(Learn more at rudenforcongress.com.)

—Dan Shearer