Is Pete Stark or ain’t he? He says he is.

If Rep. Pete Stark is contemplating a bait-and-switch in which he’ll actually drop his bid for re-election to a 21st term at the last minute, he’s staging a pretty convincing ruse.

Politico on Wednesday named Stark among a list of House members still likely to pull the plug before it comes time to put their names on the ballot for another go-round.

But since then I’ve received an e-mail from Stark’s campaign describing his “strong momentum” as evidenced by his rollout of an experienced campaign team, $579,000 cash on hand, a retooled campaign website and some endorsements.

The Stark campaign team includes campaign consultant Alex Tourk and his firm Ground Floor Public Affairs; pollster John Fairbank of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates; fundraiser Michael Fraioli of Fraioli & Associates; online strategists Trilogy Interactive, and Field Director Jason Teramoto.

“I am energized and excited for the campaign ahead. I am honored to serve the people of the 15th District and will work to earn their votes,” Stark said in the news release. “My record and vision speaks to the priorities of the people I represent. I will continue the fight to protect Social Security and Medicare, provide incentives to fuel our local economy, and bring home all of our troops.”

That matches what Stark had told me last week without any prevarication.

“I’m running. I’ve hired campaign consultants, we’re going full bore. I haven’t thought about spending this much money in 30 years,” he had said. “I always have a Republican (opponent) because the Republicans wisely don’t let any race go unchallenged… but this time I have a primary opponent who I guess thinks he got a message from the Democratic gods and he’s taking me on and raised a little money.”

That’s Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has been raising money for a 15th Congressional District race too, but told me yesterday she’s still exploring whether to run this year or wait for 2014. And former Obama Administration official Ro Khanna raised a tremendous $1.2 million for the race in the last three months of 2011, but insists he won’t run against Stark.

Stark last week told me he predicts that because Swalwell is in the race, “there will be others.”

“Understandably, they’ve told me if one person gets in, they all have to get in,” lest Stark, 80, suddenly fall ill and leave Swalwell solely positioned to take the seat, he had said. “From my standpoint, that’s great – you get four or five candidates in there and I win. They’ve all got to hope that I win, because they wouldn’t want any of the wannabes to win and knock me out, they’d all be second-string then.”

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.

  • Richard Marsh

    Thank God that at least Swalwell has the guts to now bow down to the royalty of East Bay politics.

    I tell you lots of Democrats are ready for Pete to go.
    Many of use worked and walked for Pete in 1972 and have decided its time. 40 years is enough.
    He has overstayed his time.
    That was clear when he essentially lost his seniority as the Democrats chose a lower ranking congressman to head the Ways and Means committee.
    A plum job, the culmination of a lifetime of seniority.
    That way congress acts.
    Except when it comes to Pete Stark. Even his fellow Democrats ignored him.

    Isn’t it about time the voters in the district stop bowing down to Pete’s cute antics and elect someone who can begin doing the job, part of which is to have at least enough clout so that your own party doesn’t throw you overboard when its your turn to use your seniority?

    I’m tired. I’m tired of Pete being tired and ineffective. We’re ready for change. Now is the time for anyone who is serious to jump in.
    Everyone thought the incumbent was safe in 1972 until Pete swept him away. Time for some fresh blood.

  • Lars54

    History is repeating itself, I think. I recall when Stark first ran for Congress in the early 70’s he ran agaisn’t this elderly incumbent, George Paul Miller in the Democratic primary. Miller, like the 81 year old Stark is now, was way, way over the hill in terms of his effectiveness. The brash outspoken Stark – then in his early 40’s – took him on – and kept reminding voters how ancient Miller was, which played a key role in Stark’s win.
    Now it’s 2012 and this 32 year old Erik Swalwell, a respected Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin City Councilman – is taking on Stark, who has become so old he can barely work a two hour day. The only difference, I think, is this Swalwell guy isn’t brash, or irrevernt like Stark was, he’s pretty thoughtful. He hasn’t made Stark’s age an issue at all, he’s been focusing on the issues, trying to build a grassroots campaign.
    I do believe Stark’s age is an issue in the race for the 15th. As Josh pointed out the NorCal Congressional delegation has gotten very old – Stark being the oldest at 81. Is it a good thing when your local Congressman is old enough to be in a rest home? Stark raised that issue when he ran first in the early 70’s in the Stark-Miller race, and 40 years later voters in the 15th are facing the same question in the Sttark-Swalwell race.
    Frankly, I feel it’s time to go with a younger person for this job. Common sense to tells you this. What you’ve got going here is you’ve got this ancient Congressman Pete Stark who won’t move over and allow the younger generation to serve, he likes the perks and bennies of his job – the fact that he can barely do the job anymore doesn’t matter to him, but it matter to me – as a possible future constituent. I want a Congressman who is working, not an aged prima donna that works two hour work days.We need some new blood in Congress, so I agree with this other guy.