Prosecutor, councilman to take on Pete Stark

An East Bay prosecutor and city councilman is announcing today that he’ll challenge Rep. Pete Stark in next June’s primary for the newly drawn 15th Congressional District.

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Eric Swalwell, 30, was elected last year to the Dublin City Council with a term expiring in Nov. 2014; earlier, he’d served on the city’s planning commission since 2008.

Stark’s current 13th District includes all of Alameda, Union City, Hayward, Newark, San Leandro and Fremont, as well as small parts of Oakland and Pleasanton. The new 15th District cuts out much of Fremont and all of Alameda, and adds in the unincorporated areas of Castro Valley, Ashland and Fairview as well as all of Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and San Ramon.

“When I looked at the shift, where the district went, I thought it needed someone who could fit the district with new energy and new ideas, someone who could work together with Republicans, Democrats and independents to solve the problems,” he said Tuesday. “People want to start working again and want to know who’s going to work for them. I’m ready to pull up my sleeves and go to work for this new district.”

Stark, 79, first was elected to Congress in 1972; he’s the fifth-most-senior Representative and the sixth-most-senior member of Congress overall. He announced his candidacy for a 21st term Aug. 2, saying he looks forward “to continuing to serve the people I represent today and gaining new constituents to the east. I’m committed to representing my new district with the same level of service, responsiveness and representation my constituents have come to rely on during my tenure in Congress.”

Swalwell made it clear he’s not running against Stark in particular: “It’s a new district,” he said, and in tough economic times, a fresh candidate with a job-creation agenda has a blank slate on which to write his campaign.

A Democrat, Swalwell is well aware that the June primary will be the first regular election (see comment #5, below) using the “top two” system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

He said serving on the Dublin City Council so far “has been great, it’s given me an opportunity to work closely with the business community to see what they need… to see what policies attract businesses to town.” That ranges from attracting new businesses to trying to tie Dublin into the Livermore winery boom, he said, and so he’s holding his candidacy announcement today in a business park with many vacancies near the I-580/I-680 interchange.

Swalwell graduated from Dublin High School in 1999; he holds a bachelor’s degree in government and politics and a law degree, both from the University of Maryland. While at Maryland, he served on the City of College Park City Council as its student representative, and from 2001-2002, he interned in the office of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, assisting with legislative research and constituent outreach and services.

UPDATE @ 6:47 P.M.: More details, including Pete Stark’s comments and whether Ellen Corbett is a contender, in the article here.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Possible response from Pete: For Stark’s sake! I was stirring things up in DC when this young ‘un was messin’ his diapers!

  • Richard Marsh

    Pete Stark, when he finishes this term, will have served for 40 years.
    Like many others, I campaigned for him back in 1972, in great part to end the war in Vietnam.
    Worked in the campaign HQ, then located at Foothill and 73rd Ave. in Oakland.

    For a long time he was very active and accomplished as he gained seniority and leadership.
    However in the past 10 years, the value of his leadership and especially seniority, has greatly diminished to almost nothing.

    He has been on the powerful Ways and Means committee for decades. A few years ago, when the chairman of that committee was forced to resign, the strict rules of seniority would have made Pete Stark chairman.
    Something a member of congress works a lifetime to accomplish.

    However, because of Pete Stark’s history of disturbing behavior, the entire congress, including his fellow Democrats, broke with solid tradition, and bypassed Pete Stark, naming a junior Democratic member as chairman.

    What I ask you, is the value of Pete Stark’s experience and seniority, when even his own party turns against him? Largely because they are embarrassed by his behavior and his inability to get along with others in Congress.

    Time has passed him by. At what point are we just allowing him to serve so he can continue to live his lifestyle as a congressman, and at what point do we choose a new, effective leader to represent the district?

    Or are we just gonna re-elect him because everyone in the Democratic party is too polite to tell him his time is up?

    Clearly his time is up. His seniority is of no value.

    I remember, the 1972 campaign brochure he put out, showing the then 80 year old incumbent, Congressman Miller, as a doddering old fool. Well, I know it isn’t PC, but you could now place Pete’s picture in that slot.

    Hey, that was Pete’s brochure, I’m just saying, the wheels of time roll on.

    We can’t live on the past forever, time for Pete to retire. We don’t owe him the office forever.
    He won’t even have to move, because for all intents and purposes, he has been a Washington DC resident for decades. That is his home.

    And we don’t have to elect a Republican because under the new “top two”, it is very likely there will be 2 Democrats in the November runoff.
    Others local Democrats may now enter.

    In short, it is time for change.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    Win-win for Eric Swalwell . . . even if he comes up short running against Pete Stark, the run tees up nicely for vying to replace Joan Buchanan when she terms out of the California State Assembly in 2014. Also wonder if the tea leaves could be read that Jerry McNerney also decided to move to the new Stockton-based seat so Eric Swalwell, a steadfast supporter of McNerney, could make his move. Interesting if McNerney winds up staying neutral. . . .

    Also, hasn’t Ellen Corbett also declared for this seat?

  • John W

    As one of those being shifted from McNerney’s current district to the “Stark” district, I’m glad to have a chance to vote for somebody else.

  • Jon C

    “first” top two system election AFTER CD-36’s primary special election on May 17th, 2011 and general election on July 12, 2011.

  • Steve Weir

    Jon C, good call.

    In addition to the CD 36 special election, we also had the AD 4, SD 17 and SD 28 special elections where the primary election was conducted as a Top Two Primary.

  • Truthclubber


    Stark, Swalwell, Corbett — hell, maybe Joanie will run for this seat – she only lives a few miles outside the district lines!

    What about Alberto Torrico? Doesn’t he live in this district and isn’t he “without” an elective office to hold onto?

    And then there’s our favorite nepotistic candidate who also lives in the district — Nadia Lockyer — and her hubby has LOTS of pull to lend her.

    Wait, what if there’s only one Republican running for this — could that person be the top vote getter in the June primary with so many donkeys in the pen?

  • John W

    If there are two or more Democrats contending in the primary, you would think that there must be some ambitious Republican who would run, knowing that he or she would at least make it to the finals. I’m surprised Mayor Wilson isn’t giving it a try. And what ever happened to Guy Houston?

  • Truthclubber

    I suspect that all that Eric (nice kid) has done is open up a real Pandora’s box of bees here — opening the otherwise bleery eyes of other local donkey pols to the prospect of picking off “Stark raving Pete” with this newly drawn, more moderate CD.

    Slight problem: All of those wannabe donkeys are going to run face-first into the modern-day meatgrinder of PAC money — as witnessed by Stark’s most recent FEC filing:


    Close to $600K in cash as of 6/30/11 — and Pete’s only gotten started now that he knows he’s in a real mudwrestle match for his seat with would-be lefties…

    Moderates don’t win primaries — only radicals — and Pete can drive the bus closer to the left hand lane than anyone I know.

  • Truthclubber

    Thanks, Josh, for that update — and Stark may be “raving Pete”, but he’s no newbie to the rough and tumble, cold hard math of partisan politics:

    “He (Swalwell) called me some time ago and said he was thinking about it, and I told him then I hoped that he wouldn’t,” Stark said. “I think I’ll beat him handily. As far as I know, I have most of the Democratic endorsements, for how much that helps, and I guess he’ll have to raise a lot of money. And my guess is that if he gets in the race, a lot of people will get in the race, which helps me and makes his job even tougher.”

    Let the donkey foodfight begin!

    Meanwhile — who will the GOP put up as “the sole opponent” in the June primary to ensure that he/she is opposing “Stark raving Pete” in November of 2012?

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Whatever happened to Guy Houston?

  • John W

    Re: #11

    Just asking, Ralph. Didn’t say I wanted to vote for him or anything. Seriously, I haven’t heard anything about him since he tried to unseat Mary Piepho in 2008 and get the GOP nomination for McNerney’s seat.

  • BGR

    40 years in Congress and for what? I’m not any better off are you? At this point Stark is just marking time and causing mishief with the time on his hands being in the minority. Anyone but Stark.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    Imagine both Abram Wilson and Guy Houston (assuming he still lives in the 15th District) must be seriously considering the race.

    Also, doesn’t Swalwell’s entry into the race complicate Ellen Corbett’s decision to sit out until her senate term expires in 2014? My money’s on her running now — worst case scenario, she narrowly loses to Stark or Swalwell and keeps her senate seat.

  • Truthclubber

    Hmmm, just who could the CA GOP rally behind for this challenge against “Stark raving Pete” in a newly more moderate district?

    How about someone who has run for Congress at least three times, knows how to raise a LOT of money, came thisclose to beating an incumbent member of Congress not so long ago, lives in the district and has a fair amount of name recognition?

    David Harmer.

  • Elwood

    If nobody knows where the hell Guy Houston is, he may have a little name recognition problem.

  • Josh Richman

    Re #16: Found him.

  • Truthclubber

    Re #16: Hellwoody is a fascist, aka corporatist tool.

    Whoops, my bad — there I go being insane again (even when it’s not a weekend — the horror, the horror!) after so much insightful and cogent political insight — what was it he (the little fascist, he) said about me?

    “Your insanity flows from every single post” — apparently even the ones I posted above that he feigned to not comment on.

    Again, I repeat: Hellwoody is a fascist — and his tactics of repeatedly and predicably trying to “discredit the messenger” instead of strapping on a pair and taking on the message merely prove that point — that’s what fascists do.

  • Rick K.

    Pete Stark’s son Jeff Stark is a co-worker of Councilman Swalwell. They are both Alameda County deputy district attorneys. Wonder if Daddy’s connections with the District Attorney is what got son Jeff Stark the job? The number of “famous political names” in that office is hardly coincidental (children of Stark, Panetta, Alioto, children fellow district attorneys – which explains Nancy O’Malley’s hiring, associates of donors to the D.A.’s pet causes, etc.). Nepotism and cronyism galore. The younger Stark has a reputation as a “do nothing” in that office. He oversees — get this — prosecution of political wrongdoing, yet fails to prosecute political wrongdoing! Pete Stark is a prime example of the entrenched “political class,” America’s equivalent to royalty. Benefits are showered upon the “political class” and their progeny. Pete Stark was known as an aloof fool when he represented the Tri-Valley back in the ’80s. The voters of Stark’s district at long last will have a real choice, instead of a Soviet-style re-coronation of the incumbent every two years. Councilman Swalwell would most wisely use the new “top two” election law to his benefit and appeal to independent voters. Republicans and independents would most wisely unite behind him and make it a Swalwell-Stark battle in November 2012. Thanks Councilman Swalwell for your courage to take on “the political class”!

  • Elwood

    @ #18

    I’m sure you can get drunk or high or whatever it is you get and launch one of your insane rants on a weeknight too.

    I know you’re in love with me, but please try to quote me accurately:

    “Your insanity screams from your every post.”

    And I deigned (not feigned, you illiterate twerp) not to answer your silly little posts.

  • Raul

    Stark is pretty old now, I also heard his health isn’t too good either. It would, I think, be a good time for him to step and let a younger person take the job. Sometimes a talented, successful person can hang on to a job too long. We saw this with Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders, he was highly regarded at one time, but now is considered a liability to orginization due to his advanced age. Sometime people become difficult, and agumentative when they get into thier 80’s, even though thier mental faculities are on wane they continue to insist they are at top of thier game.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    In Re Truthie: You are a sickie of the first magnitude