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Swalwell wants new CA-15 debate, but host balks

15th Congressional District candidate Eric Swalwell today urged the Eden Area League of Women Voters not to give incumbent Rep. Pete Stark “a free pass” by failing to hold another debate in this race.

Eric Swalwell“Voters deserve to hear from Congressman Stark and me on the issues that impact their lives,” Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, said in a news release. “The voters expect debates. It’s time to come out of hiding. As a 40-year incumbent, Congressman Stark should be prepared to face his constituents and explain himself. The League of Women Voters should not give Congressman Stark a free pass from the time-honored tradition of debate and dialogue.”

But league president Nancy Van Huffel said it’s nothing personal – she just sees no point in it given that the league had sponsored a pre-primary debate for this race in April.

“We are sponsoring probably 12 or 14 candidate forums and we are a small league, so I did not schedule another debate for Pete Stark and his opponent because we had a debate and it is online,” she said today. “We didn’t see where it would be any kind of new thing.”

Van Huffel said she was unaware when this fall’s debates were scheduled that Stark, D-Fremont, had already publicly refused to debate Swalwell again. “He was not invited, he did not refuse, it was just a matter basically of timing.”

She acknowledged, however, that the league is holding a second debate for at least one East Bay race: the 20th Assembly District contest between Hayward councilman Bill Quirk and Hayward optometrist Jennifer Ong, which like the Stark-Swallwell race is a Democrat-on-Democrat smackdown made possible by the state’s new top-two primary system.

Three other candidates were eliminated in the 20th Assembly District primary so the dynamics have changed considerably, Van Huffel noted; only one candidate was eliminated in the 15th Congressional District primary.

“Certainly that race is important but I’m not sure there would be any further information that would come of it (a debate),” she said. “We try to do the best we can.”

With or without a new debate, the race continues to be noticed outside the Bay Area: Daily Kos’ David Nir today named CA-15 the only “tossup” among California’s six same-party House elections.

The league’s pre-primary CA-15 debate was the forum at which Stark accused Swalwell of having accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” from Dublin-area developers – an accusation he later retracted, and the first of several allegations Stark made this spring which proved to be untrue.

Follow after the jump for complete video of that April forum, broken into four parts…

http://youtu.be/1qayi47ecvk

http://youtu.be/2nVsd63NtRA

http://youtu.be/HkrFVLMRzng

http://youtu.be/Dc8CZpgZB4c

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.