CA15: Swalwell sits pretty as rivals fight for 2nd

As of now, Rep. Eric Swalwell has taken 49.2 percent of the 15th Congressional District’s vote with Republican Hugh Bussell 25.9 percent and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett at 24.9 percent.

And that looks a recipe for Swalwell’s second term.

Bussell, the Alameda County GOP vice chairman from Livermore, leads Corbett, D-Hayward, by only about 600 votes, too small a margin to call which one of them will make it into the top two. In Alameda County, which includes the lion’s share of the district, the registrar still must review and/or count about 64,000 vote-by-mail ballots plus about 8,000 provisional ballots countywide. Likewise, Contra Costa County has as many as 50,000 more ballots to count.

The district’s voters are 48 percent Democrats, 22 percent Republicans and 21 percent nonpartisans. Swalwell, D-Dublin, built a Democrat-nonpartisan bloc – with a few Republicans too, probably – to dominate the middle of the field and crowd Corbett to one side; by drawing almost half the vote, he left her no room to maneuver beyond her liberal, labor-backed, Democratic base.

Bussell seemed happy Wednesday, and rightly so – his share of the vote slightly exceeded his party’s registration. But he’s probably too smart and well-versed to believe in his heart that if he gets to November, he can win.

Few who voted for Corbett will vote for him; they’ll vote either for Swalwell or not at all. And Bussell can expect no monetary aid from the state GOP, the National Republican Congressional Committee or other party entities, who’ll be focused on winnable races; he had about $3,200 cash on hand to Swalwell’s $697,000 as of mid-May.

“It’s a very steep hill to climb,” he acknowledged Wednesday. “On the other hand, as people take notice that there’s a Republican in the race, they may take a closer look at what I stand for … and Eric might find some of his support falling away as well.”

If Corbett edges out Bussell, it’s hard to imagine Bussell voters pivoting to support her instead of Swalwell – she argues Swalwell isn’t liberal enough for the district. And if her support from labor unions only just barely gets her into the top two this week, it’s hard to see how they can suddenly push her to victory in the larger-turnout, less ideological electorate we’ll see in November.

Corbett was enduring the primary cliffhanger stoically Wednesday.

“I called Mr. Swalwell this morning and wished him well and congratulated him in coming in first,” she said. “But we’re just going to have to wait for the votes to be counted … We’ll see how that goes.”

Bussell agreed. “I’m guardedly optimistic. At some level, it’s just fantastic we’re even at this point.”

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.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Ol Ellen’s strength was everybody knew her name. Her great weakness was everybody knew she led the State Senate.

  • Marga

    Now that this is all said and over, I’d be curious to see the polls that Swalwell did not release previously. The poll in the CD 17 race was much worse for Honda than the actual numbers. I imagine that it was the same for Swalwell, or he would have released it instead of attacking Corbett.

    So it seems like polls may be showing anti-incumbent sentiment that doesn’t manifest itself at the polls. Any way of knowing whether it’ll play the same way in November?

  • The poll for Mike Honda in #CA17 was much worse for Honda (yet still more or less accurate in terms of where the final results landed in terms of 1st, 2nd, etc.) because SurveyUSA conducted the poll.

    Met Eric Swalwell’s pollster on quite a few occasions. She knows what she’s doing, and the ads nailing Ellen Corbett on her missing votes and still collecting her per diem were a way of “spiking the football”, i.e., adding to Swalwell’s already strong support.

  • Marga

    SurveyUSA has a great reputation, however. I looked it up an it’s among the most accurate, even Nate Silver holds it in high esteem.

    As for Swalwell’s polls, I can’t opine without seeing them. Now that it’s over, he can release them and we can all see for ourselves.

  • Elwood

    Another 2 to 1 victory.

    Now that my ballet career has ended so tragically I’ve decided to become a professional gambler.

    Anybody want to bet that Swalwell is not returned to D.C.?

  • SurveyUSA rated highly in Nate Silver’s algorithm for poll accuracy . . . however that algorithm looked only at polls of the presidential race in ’12. Not a high bar. Local and district-level polling — heck, even statewide polling — a much tougher nut to crack.

  • JohnW

    Only if somebody has pictures of him being naughty with a Congressional page.

  • Marga

    Perhaps one wearing a tutu

  • Marga

    OK, now I’m sure you’re not Tavares 🙂

  • Because my standards for polls of state and local races are high, whereas the barometer Mr. Tavares uses for accuracy remains skewed? I guess I should take this as a compliment, @SLtalk:disqus!

  • Marga

    Because you understand what an algorithm is 🙂