Pete Stark gets DiFi’s nod, but gaffes anew

Right after news of Rep. Pete Stark’s campaign staff shakeup came news of a prominent, albeit not unexpected, endorsement: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

“We need Pete Stark in Washington to continue defending Social Security, Medicare, and creating jobs in technology and manufacturing. President Obama and I endorse him based on his years of service and leadership,” Feinstein said in a news release issued by Stark’s campaign.

Stark, D-Fremont, is also opening a new campaign office in Dublin – the home turf of his challenger, Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat. In fact, Stark’s campaign office will be in the same union hall in which the TriValley Democratic Club – of which Swalwell is a longtime member – meets.

But Stark didn’t exactly cover himself in glory while taking questions at an event today in Union City – before he could be ushered away, he said he won’t debate Swalwell because he’d probably get the same “stupid” questions reporters were asking him there. The Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci has the story and video.

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.

  • JohnW

    Carla’s post refers to the debate where the “bribery” accusation was made as “the one and only debate.” In fact, prior to that debate, in February, they had a joint appearance at the union hall in Dublin, sponsored by the Tri Valley Democratic Club. Josh covered it. Although I don’t excuse Stark’s unsubstantiated bribery charges, it was actually Swalwell who set the tone with his remarks, when he ripped into Stark from the gitgo. Stark has a temper, and I suspect Swalwell came out of the gate that way deliberately. I think it really pissed off Stark, which may have been Swalwell’s intention.

    Carla’s question about living out of the district was old news and kind of a light-weight question. Not sure I blame Stark for dismissing it.

  • Elwood

    Starkers new minders better get a good grip on the leash for tightening the choke collar.

  • Rick K.

    Dianne Feinstein likely will be re-elected in November, but most Californians have tired of her and want her to go away. She won just 49.3% of the vote in the open primary against a bunch of political unknowns. “Anybody but Feinstein” won a majority of the vote. She’s a “rich -itch” who lives the good life off of her husband’s questionable business practices. She’s a quintessential “one percenter” who deserves the ire of the Occupy crowd. Her endorsement of Stark is just one out-of-touch incumbent blindly or selfishly supporting another interchangeable, out-of-touch incumbent.

  • GV Haste

    No one who has followed Pete Stark over the past decades can look at the man in 2012 and suggest he is anywhere near as capable as he once was. At nearly every single event his loses his composure and “becomes the news story”.
    A campaign manager’s nightmare. Did Tourk get fired, or did he just quit in frustration?
    Checking out the recent video, Pete is surrounded by handlers who are literally dragging him away from the scene, frighted to death, Pete will “do it again”.

    And… and he did. On ABC7 at 6:00 PM and again at 11:00 PM it was ALL Pete. The labor message was lost in Pete’s antics. Especially at 11:00 PM where they cut the segment even further, leaving only a angry old politician railing against the press, refusing to debate in public. GAWD, the carefully orchestrated day went up in flames.
    His new campaign manager must have had more than a few drinks later that night, wondering how she is going to keep Pete away from the press, especially TV, over the next 4 months.

    Everytime he appears, its like watching NASCAR race, waiting for the crash.

    Lost in all of this, is that fellow members of congress have been seeing this version of Pete for some time. Not by chance, they threw aside the seniority system and bypassed Pete in choosing a new chairman for Ways and Means in 2010.
    They’ve see this story again and again.

    Only here, locally, are we told– Oh sure, Pete is as “sharp as ever”. (The exact words of Ro Khanna, who is quaking in his boots that Swalwell might win)

    You know, despite the cries from party insiders, it would be great for democracy for Swalwell to win and for us to have a completely open race in 2014.
    Ro, Corbett, and Swalwell could have at it.
    Much better than leaving Pete sleeping through 2 more years and then getting Ro offered up as the annointed one in 2014.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Hey Pete, here’s a stupid question for ya: Why do you deserve reelection?

  • JohnW

    GV Haste makes some good, well-stated points; but “a completely open race in 2014” would be one with no incumbent, multiple candidates and nobody teed up by the party machinery. If, as seems likely, Swalwell wins by default in 2012, then 2014 will NOT be an open race. He might still be beatable by a well-financed opponent, but he will be the incumbent.

    None of the above would matter if Swalwell were a well-qualified candidate worthy of being the CD-15 representative in Congress. But he’s not. For all the oft-stated reasons, I can’t really justify voting FOR Stark. But I can easily justify voting AGAINST Swalwell. Electing somebody who is half-way through his first term on a city council with no substance on issues or qualifications other than not being Stark doesn’t sit well with me.

    If it were up to me, which it clearly isn’t, we would put up with another two years of the “NASCAR race” mentioned by GV Haste for the sake of an open race with a better field of choices in 2014.

  • GV Haste

    JohnW, I said “open race” in 2014, because I am well aware of the war-chest that Ro has and the party supporters who will be behind him.

    Currently, he aleady has 1.4 million dollars in his campaign fund. He already has the support of top Democratic party leaders, including Nancy Pelosi.

    Should Swalwell win, he’ll be very lucky to amass half the money that Ro will have gathered by then.
    Ro will have over 2.5 million. Swalwell will be lucky to have 1.0 million in 2 years.
    Corbett as well will have over a million and she will be a sitting State Senator in most of the district.
    Hence, Swalwell as incumbent would have a huge fight on his hands.

    On the other hand, if Swalwell loses, come 2014, he won’t stand a chance against Ro. And there is zero doubt that Ro is running. Corbett is still in question if she sees Ro sitting on 2.5 million, and having most of the endorsements.

    So, NO, the only chance for a competitive open election will be if Swalwell enters as incumbent.
    Otherwise it will be all Ro, with a small chance for Corbett if she enters.

    I take it, you are following the lastest balances in the accounts. Ro also got a lot of assurances that if he waited and didn’t challenge Pete, that next time they’d support him. Those supporters are in the bag.

    All things being equal, I’d say the odds in 2014 favor Ro, unless Swalwell proves to be very good.
    Of course, should Pete prevail this year, who knows, he may decide he just wants to run in 2014.
    I mean, who is going to say NO to him. Certainly no one did this time, and now look where he is and where Ro is.
    Simply put, and I think everyone would agree, Ro should have run, and he would have won. No doubt about it. Pete would have retired gracefully to Maryland.

  • Elwood

    “Ro should have run, and he would have won.”

    Woulda, shoulda, coulda. In politics timing is everything and Ro has missed the bus.

    It’s pathetic to see the dimmiecrat herd (Feinstein et al) rally around the sick old bull.

    If Swalwell can walk and chew gum at the same time he is better qualified than Starkers.

  • JohnW

    If Swalwell is elected, Pelosi may give him a prestigious seat on the powerful subcommittee on Capitol Building Elevator Maintenance.

  • moderate voter

    I find it odd Pete Stark’s campaign – which is in shambles – would hire Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s top operative to shake up his shipwreck of a campaign. The only NorCal politician who has worse poll numbers than Stark is Quan, she has been a disaster as Mayor. I find it just laughable Stark would hire Quan’s right hand person, doesn’t he read the papers? I think this campaign is exposing something many insiders in DC have known for a long time, Pete Stark is a notorious bumbler.
    The fact that Stark is hiring an Oakland based campaign manager – to replace his San Francisco based campaign manager – just underscores the fact that the entire Pete Stark for Congress campaign is being run by out-of-towners. When you factor in his campaign is primarily being funded by Beltway special interest groups, you have the answer to why Eric Swalwell has got the 40 year incumbent on the ropes.
    Personally I have seen no evidence of a campaign by Stark going on anywhere in the 15th district. He has no volunteers, no yard signs up, Stark himself isn’t even campaigning very much. Eric Swalwell, in contrast, has an army of volunteers. You can’t go anywhere in the 15th – were talking community events – without running into Swalwell and his campaign workers. The guy is everywhere.
    Why is Pete Stark running such a lousy campaign? Having watched him now for many years I think it’s just plain laziness. Stark isn’t a hard worker, has never been a hard worker, he’s not a keen on putting in much time on his job. That’s why he rarely visits his district, just plain laziness. He got away with this for many years, but voters did away with those gerrymandered districts, and now he has got an excellent candidate – a candidate that works 18 hour days – breathing down his neck. If Swalwell beats Stark – I think he will and so do a lot of others – a key reason will be Stark’s laziness.
    Voters in the 15th deserve a hard working Congressman, not a lazy prima donna like Pete Stark. The typical 15th district constituent hit’s the freeway to go to work at 6am. and doesn’t get home till 7 at night. These hard working folks – and I’m one of them – need a deserve a Congressman that works hard, somebody who is going to put in 12 hour days fighting for jobs and federal dollars for our district. I like this Eric Swalwell, he’s young, he’s a go getter, you put this guy in Washington he will get results.

  • Truthclubber

    @10 —

    “Moderate Voter” = “Swalwell Manager”.

    Nice try — now go shill your swill somewhere else where there are no grownups watching…or better yet, actually DO a poll and PUBLISH the results.

    And while you’re at it, explain why Stark was WAY ahead of Swalwell — in the Danville parade yesterday.


  • JohnW

    Re: #10

    Nobody, including Stark, is entitled to hold a seat just because they’ve been there a long time. Especially if they’ve demonstrated that age is getting the better of them. Stark should have been persuaded to step aside this year and make room for some good candidates to run. People waiting in the wings should have had the gumption to step forward.

    That said, the man stands in, well, Stark contrast to his opponent in terms of background, substance and willingness to take gutsy stands — something I respect even if I don’t agree with some of those stands.

    His opponent brings to the table a law degree, a few years as a staff prosecutor and a half term on the Dublin city council. And, oh yes, lots of energeeee! He’s chosen to focus on style and capitalizing on his opponents Starkisms, but not very much on issues.

    When Stark went to Congress, he had an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Berkeley. He had started a successful bank and had served in the Armed Forces.

    Like his stands or not — and, for me, it’s “not” in some cases — nobody can accuse him of just going along to get along or to do just what’s popular. I admire his lifelong passion about health care. As a Vietnam-era draftee, I don’t agree with him about reinstating the draft, but it took guts to propose that in 2003. As a former banker, he bucked his party and voted against TARP. I disagree with that too, but respect his willingness to be his own man. He bucked both parties and voted against farm subsidies. He was honest about being an atheist and took a great deal of heat for it.

    I don’t think Stark deserves to stay in Congress, but I’d like to see him replaced by somebody who is equally passionate and substantive about issues, has the guts to say what he thinks and brings something other than just a law degree and energeeee to the job.

  • GV Haste

    John W,

    I’d like to see him replaced by somebody who is equally passionate and substantive about issues, has the guts to —

    Yes, isn’t it a shame that Ro Khana didn’t “have the guts” to put himself in the race.

    BTW, your discription of Swawell sounds exactly like Jeff Stark, Pete’s son, when Pete and local pols put him up for election to the Board of Supervisors back in the 90’s.

  • DanvilleDemocrat

    John: your belittlement of Eric Swalwell’s time as a district attorney — where he prosecuted felonies and took multiple cases to trial — really betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the legal process. Know I’m not going to convince you that Swalwell — despite being young and energetic, which view you as negatives, for some strange reason — is the better candidate. But you think your preferred candidate-in-waiting Ro Khanna, who as a lawyer just focused on writing contracts for technology companies (NOT actually being in a courtroom) and served in a pretty ho-hum position at the Commerce Department, is VASTLY more qualified? That doesn’t wash to me.

  • JohnW

    Re #13

    GV Haste,

    The 90’s — way before my time in California, so I’ll take your word for it. As for Ro and guts or lack thereof, I’m not singing anybody’s praises. I just don’t like being told my choice is between an 81 year old curmudgeon and somebody who had barely started his first term on a city council before deciding to run for Congress and who hardly even talks about issues. Gadzooks! Surely, we can do better than that!

  • GV Haste

    JohnW, Pete’s son, put up for election by Pete & Co. had ZERO experience in any elected post or any appointed board, at the time Pete got him to run.
    Pete wanted him to do it on name only.

    They even hid the funding of the campaign.
    How? This is how it was done. The other 3 Stark siblings each loaned the campaign $26,000 for a $78,000 total “loan”. After the campaign was over, the defunct, but still legal campaign fund, was in debt that $78,000. After everything quieted down, the next year, quietly, Pete Stark’s congressional campaign fund gave $78,000 to the son’s defunct (but alive) campaign fund. That $78,000 from Pete’s Washington fund, went into the son’s fund for just ONE DAY, then checks were cut to each of the 3 siblings to pay off the “loans” that they had made to their brother’s campaign.

    So, Pete was able to give $78,000 dollars to his son’s campaign, while giving the appearance, during the election, that none of the money was coming from funds Pete was raising from special interests in Wash. DC.

    Kind of form of delayed laundering of campaign funds.
    Leaving the electorate to think Pete wasn’t trying to buy the election with DC PAC money.

    That’s the guy you want to re-elect.

    At least Swalwell isn’t having Daddy buy his way to office.

    But you wouldn’t know any of this, because the 90’s was before your time.

  • JohnW

    Re: #16

    GV Haste,

    Didn’t say Pete’s an angel or that I “want to re-elect.” I just want to be picky about his replacement. And, yes, I would vote to re-elect him if it meant that I would have better choices in 2014.

  • JohnW

    Re: #14 Danville Democrat

    My point about Swalwell’s experience in the DA office is that he is a rank and file prosecutor, not a mover and shaker. I’m sure he works hard. Most prosecutors do because of understaffing.

    FYI, the Alameda DA’s office has 150 attorneys according to their website. The pecking order is DA, several ADA’s who head up various sections, Senior Deputy DA’s and the worker bees — Deputy DA’s. There are about 100 Deputy DA’s. According to the salary data base, Swalwell is one of the lower paid members of the staff at $109k.

    If you want to compare Swalwell as a courtroom attorney vs Khanna as not, that’s not a criterion for me. I’m more interested in what their legal background tells me about their mind and their depth concerning public affairs. Khanna’s experience as a top intellectual property attorney and his experience at Commerce, however ho-hum, suggest to me he has significantly more familiarity with business and economic issues than somebody who prosecutes street thugs. Don’t get me wrong, I value people who are good at prosecuting street thugs. But that doesn’t mean I’ll vote for them for Congress.

    I never said “energy” is a negative; only that it doesn’t mean much in the absence of more concrete credentials and depth on issues. From Swalwell himself at the February forum in Dublin and from his supporters, all I’ve heard is about his energy and the fact that he’s not Stark. Not once have I seen anybody say, “I’d like to send this guy to Congress because I really like his position on (pick your issue).”

    From what I’ve seen, Ro Khanna would, indeed, be more to my liking as a candidate. But that’s just from a distance. I’m a political junkie, not an insider. I’d be for anybody who had credentials worthy of the job.

    For what it’s worth, Swalwell left a really terrible impression on me when I saw him at the Tri Valley Democratic Club forum in Dublin in February. And that took some doing, because I went to the meeting with an “anybody but Stark” attitude, fully expecting to come away as a Swalwell supporter. Anyway, you know what they say about first impressions.

  • GV Haste

    JohnW, so what will you be saying 2 year from now, when Pete decides he’ll stick around for 2 more additional years?

    If he does that, and Ro once again defers to the local party insiders, staying out of the race, what then?
    You’ll wait two more years?

    I on the other hand, am more than willing to allow Swalwell to do the job for 2 years, and then face others in 2014. Seems like you’re afraid the voters in the district will end up liking him, and prefering him to Ro.
    After all, Ro will have a minimum of 2.5 million dollars by then. If he can’t make a good case against Swalwell after seeing him in action for two years, then Ro doesn’t deserve to win.

    I like democracy. You seem to prefer a clearly incompetent incumbent for two more years.
    If Pete comes off so poorly in every public appearance, one can only imagine what he is like when not “ON” and doing his best.
    The guy is “cooked”.. done. Everyone, knows that.
    That is why we hear such absurd statements from the likes of Ro Khana “Pete is as sharp as ever”

    Please…no really, please…

  • JohnW

    CV Haste,

    As for what I would be saying in two years if Pete decided to stick around. — Mother Nature will probably take care of that. If not, the pols won’t make the same mistake twice.

    Yes, if it were legal, I would vote for an Irish Setter rather than hand the advantage of incumbency to somebody whose “empty suit” performance in Dublin in February fell so short of expectations and turned me off every bit much as Stark’s recent history has turned off most people. Difference is, the worst case with Stark is two more years. The worst case with Swalwell is being represented the rest of my natural life by somebody I can’t stand.

    I realize my position is hard to accept. But, as you put it, “I like democracy.” One thing I like about it is that I get to vote as I please.

  • Rick K.

    I vote “none of the above” for CD-15 — now and in 2014. Stark is the quintessential aloof and daffy incumbent who believes he is entitled to the office, Swalwell is not congressional material but wants to play the role for many years until something “better” comes along, and Khanna is the carpetbagging opportunist who has lost all credibility (“the fierce urgency of … let’s wait another two years”). With Nancy Pelosi’s full endorsement, Khanna has raised $1 million+ to run not now, but at some future, unspecified date. Khanna has kissed the Establishment’s ring finger (possibly along with other parts of its anatomy). In a move that seems deeply antithetical to our form of government, Khanna apparently has set up some “quid-pro-quo” deal — “I’ll wait my turn, Nancy, if you support me” and “Donors, trust me, I’ll run for Congress someday.” This is all so confusing. Does Pelosi’s support for Khanna mean that she is against Stark? Does Pelosi’s support for Khanna mean that she doesn’t care what grassroots Democrats in CD-15 want in 2012, 2014 or in any other year? Have voters really become irrelevant pawns manipulated in some chess game orchestrated from Washington, D.C.? Moreover, the allegations about Stark’s failed effort to install his son in the Board of Supervisors in the 1990s — if true — is very disturbing — we could’ve had another Nadia Lockyer-esque nepotism debacle a decade or so earlier! (So did D.A. Tom Orloff give Jeff Stark the D.A. job not “on merit,” but for “political” reasons? See this article that alleges a pattern of nepotism/cronyism in D.A. hiring at that office: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2004/11/26/17072881.php?show_comments=1) In a district of 800,000, with many highly-educated citizens, there must be someone better to represent the area in Congress than Stark (Sr. or Jr.), Swalwell or Khanna.

  • GV Haste

    Let me just put in one thing about Jeff Stark.

    I was only commenting about the creative, but not illegal, financial funding arrangement during that 1996 election, the loans and loan paybacks and later funds from Pete’s campaign funds.

    I think back then, he was running on the Stark name.
    I think that is part of the reason he lost, as the public understood that. Something they failed to do with Nadia Lockyer, and her funding arrangement.

    Having said the above, I think in the years since, that Jeff Stark has done his job well and from what I know is highly respected in the DA’s office and elsewhere.
    I was only highlighting the issue of that election some 16 years ago when we were comparing the recent comments made about Swalwell’s inexperience in the DA’s office.

    I brought up the issue only because in this election, Pete Stark’s supporters will be emphasizing the inexperience and youthfull nature of his opponent.
    You see, back then, Pete didn’t have any qualms about supporting his own son, with similar levels of experience.

    That is all. I trust Jeff Stark is doing a fine job.
    If he had a interest in politics, he probably should have waited about 10 years to develop his own supporters. At this point I’ve not heard of any indication he ever wants to run for elected office.
    As I said, that long ago funding issue was odd, and I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t illegal.

    Certainly it wasn’t as massive as Bill Lockyers million dollars to Nadia’s campaign.
    Nor equal to the $200,000 Mary Hayashi gave to her husbands judgeship campaign.
    All of these episodes are part of the problem with excess cash flowing around.
    It creates unfairness and a form of nepotism via cash advantage.

  • Elwood

    “if it were legal, I would vote for an Irish Setter”

    How fortunate for you that you now have this opportunity.

    The intellectual level of Stark and the setter are roughly comparable, but the setter has much better manners.

  • Truthclubber

    @22 —

    Now that you’ve (GV Haste) become the latest “moniker” (after Lars54 and Moderate Voter) used by the Swalwell campaign to try to shill his swill to us (Swillwell? I like it!), I thought it only fitting to remind you that none of this chattering is going to matter to “the typical 15th district constituent” (hint: correctly spelled BIG words are a dead giveaway that’s you’re a shill) — and what IS going to matter is just how interested they are in this “down card” race after they vote for the top of the card, so let’s look ahead to November.

    1) Obama/Romney is by far the biggest race, and in CD15, where the split is 49D, 23R, and 28I, we have <a href="http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2012/07/06/new-ca-field-poll-obama-viewed-more-positively-has-18-point-lead-over-romney/"this statewide view from Field that shows Obama crushing Romney statewide with an 18 point spread, and since CD15 leans more blue than the state as a whole, I could easily see Obama winning CD15 by 63% to 37%, a 26 point spread.

    2) Since everyone from Obama on down the card (Feinstein, Boxer, Pelosi and the entire Bay Area Democratic contingent — see? I can do BIG words too!) has endorsed “Mr. Senile”, and he WILL have the moola to reinforce that with a message of “give Obama the Congress he needs!” to everyone of those hard-working CD15 voters — it means that all “Mr. Senile” needs to do is get a mere 80% of those Obama voters to agree to that message, and vote for him, since my math shows that 63% (Obama) x 80% (Senile, aka Stark, in case you couldn’t figure out the code) = 50.4 — or slightly better than “50% plus one”.

    3) “Moola” matters, “Shillwellers”, and from I see, you ain’t got it, and ain’t gonna be gettin’ it, either — and ain’t gonna be able to overcome the massive ground game that the Alameda County and Contra Costa labor groups and official Democratic committees and clubs are gonna mount to push that “give Obama the Congress he needs!” message exclusively for “Mr. Senile” unless you want your “go-getter” to publicly become the Democrat he so studiously AVOIDS labeling himself as.


  • JohnW

    Re: #23

    I’d say Pete is more Doberman than Irish Setter.

  • GV Haste


    “1) Obama/Romney is by far the biggest race, and in CD15”

    In case you didn’t notice. The presidential election in November is alread done. Finished, decided..
    In California. The outcome is not in question by anyone. Or do you think Obama and Mitt will be slugging it out to win California?
    Unless something has changed, its winner take all for the electoral votes.

    No, while the press may report the presidential election as a horse race, the importance of California is zero, since the race is already DONE. California is only good for cash, not votes.

    That leaves us with what? Congressional race CD15, legislative race, Assembly District 20.
    Probably a interesting County Supervisor special election race in Dist. 2,

    Oh yes, and Brown and the others big tax proposals.
    BTW, you really think Pete will get 80% of the Democratic vote? I think that is nearly impossible.
    Did you examine the results over the hill, in Dublin, Pleasanton, etc.
    Hayward is NOT representative of this district.
    You have a incumbent who can no longer campaign in public. When he shows up, the past 5 months have shown the effect to be net-negative.
    Look at the results of last week’s big event.
    30 or 40 people at the event clapping with support.
    Followed by 100,000 watching the ABC7 report at 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm, where Pete came off like some cranky old geezer complaining about the reporters asking bad questions, only to be finally dragged away by his handlers to a waiting car. The Great Escape.

    So the well planned event score card = 100,000 to 50
    Can’t wait for the next campaign event.

  • Truthclubber

    @26 —

    Got you a wee bit hot under the collar, eh, GV?

    Now we know you (GV Haste) ARE the latest alias for “Shillwell’s” campaign manager — no one else would respond THAT quickly (a mere 42 minutes) with that much heat and all of these “alleged” factoids.

    Got news for you — you have no clue how “Joe and Jane Voter” really behave when they get ready to vote at the end of that very long workday — and most voters will not even know who to vote for beyond “President” unless they get “guidance” from what they receive in the mail or over the airwaves — and that takes “moola”, not mere “earned media”, and you ain’t got any of that, and you ain’t gettin’ near as much as what “Mr. Senile” will get when push comes to shove.

    Get ready for it — “President Obama needs to finish the job for you! Give President Obama the Congress(man) he needs to finish that job!” — and remember: Grownups are watching this site — so take your swill and shill it somewhere else.