At least one East Bay candidate turned Black Friday into a campaign opportunity.
Eric Swalwell, the Dublin city councilman and Alameda County deputy district attorney who’s challenging Rep. Pete Stark for the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, was pounding the pavement overnight, serving hot coffee to shivering shoppers who’d gone out hunting bargains in the wee hours. The Democrat tweeted his stops at a Toys R Us and a Best Buy in Dublin, at the Macy’s at the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, and at Hayward’s Southland Mall.
“Shoppers were surprised to see me but were eager to share their frustration of a broken, dysfunctional Washington, D.C.,” Swalwell said this afternoon. “It’s disappointing that Congressman Stark is not in his own district for Thanksgiving. I’m sure the Baltimore Sun has a story of him greeting shoppers at an Annapolis mall.”
That jab, of course, references past criticisms of Stark living most of the year at his Maryland home rather than here in the district. Stark couldn’t be reached Friday afternoon for comment.
“At the top of voters’ shopping list for 2012 is an upgrade in Congress,” Swalwell continued. “Even after the discounts are over, I pledge to be a candidate who will stand with the people of this district, listen to their concerns in person, and make their economic priorities my priorities.”
Swalwell, 31, has been waging an aggressive campaign including a listening tour of the district’s downtown areas – including Fremont, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, Castro Valley and San Ramon – on weekends over the past two months.
Stark, 80, first was elected to Congress in 1972; he’s the fifth most senior House member and dean of the California delegation, and announced his candidacy for a 21st term in August.
Swalwell is counting on several factors to help him topple this mega-incumbent.
Polls show Californians have record-low opinions of Congress, Swalwell sees Stark as vulnerable as he shifts from his old 13th District to this new one, losing much of Fremont and all of Alameda while adding Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon and Castro Valley. Also, June’s primary will be the first regular election using the “top two” system, with all candidates competing on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advancing to the general election. Given the district’s Democratic registration edge, and the absence of any declared Republican candidates so far, it’s not beyond the pale to imagine a Stark-vs.-Swalwell faceoff come next November.
But Stark has almost 40 years of name recognition, the bully pulpit of incumbency and a well-honed fundraising network; his campaign had $544,460 cash on hand as of Sept. 30, while Swalwell’s had $69,526.