Pete Stark, Eric Swalwell In Close Congressional Race

New primary rules and redistricting help heat up a race between two Democrats separated by a generational divide.


The 15th Congressional District race between Democrats Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell has garnered national attention.

But with less than three weeks left until Election Day, there hasn't been any public polling and neither campaign has released any internal polling.

What does seem clear is that after 40 years in Congress Rep. Stark is in a fight for his political life against the 31-year-old Dublin city councilman.

"I see us surging," Swalwell recently said in an interview. "We've received endorsements from the Chronicle, Tri-Valley Times and BANG...I believe the momentum is on our side."

The congressman doesn't lack endorsements either, including the biggest of them all in the Democratic Party — President Barack Obama.

But after decades of having a cakewalk to reelection, the new top-two primary system in California has forced Stark, one of the most liberal members of Congress, to try and win reelection against a fellow Democrat in the general election.

The demographics of the new 15th Congressional District, which goes from San Ramon down to Fremont and east through Livermore, doesn't help Stark either. Though it's a Democratic leaning district, it's not as liberal as Stark's old district that went from Alameda down to Newark.

In the primary election in June, Stark came out ahead with 42.9 percent of the vote to Swalwell's 35.3. But voter turnout was low, and the most conservative candidate in the race, Chris Pareja, won 21.5 percent of the vote.

With Republican voters in the district stuck voting for a Democrat, the Swalwell campaign hopes they will see the challenger as the lesser of two evils.

What voters won't have a chance to see in the final weeks of the campaign is a debate. During the primary campaign, Stark accused Swalwell of taking bribes in a debate, which he later apologized for.

The Swalwell campaign wants another debate; not having one now is an example of Stark dodging the public, they say.

The Stark campaign says given the debate in the spring  there isn't a need for another.

"We had debates," said Sharon Cornu, Stark's campaign manager. 

With 18 days until Election Day, both campaigns say they are focused on talking to as many voters as possible.

"We're working hard and talking to voters every day and the response has been very positive," Cornu said. "Pete Stark is a fighter. He continues to fight to protect medicare, social security, investing in education and rebuilding the middle class."

The Swalwell campaign says they have knocked on 70,000 doors and have volunteers calling voters every day.

Swalwell does see policy differences between him in Stark. Swalwell says he wants to repeal the No Child Left Behind education law (Stark has stated he would amend the law) and will protect funding for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Stark would like to cut military funding).

While Stark's campaign says their candidate has a long track-record of fighting in Washington, Swalwell says Stark is way past his prime.

"He's not up for the job and it's time to move on," Swalwell said. "You have to be connected and on the ground and he's been absent and asleep at the wheel."

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Bong Sativa October 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM
The Patch,Patrick Creaven,David Ross & others have not only been Eric Swalwell's greatest supporters,they've also routinely censored the comments of Congressman Pete Stark's many supporters or ended the debate when it suits their agenda ! The increasingly right-wing stance of the Patch's editorial staff is reprehensible,unprofessional,obviously biased & inexcusable ! And they have the nerve to call themselves journalists,what a crock !
Warren October 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
After seeing the hit-piece Stark sent in the mail yesterday, and now reading this, I will be voting for Swalwell.
Dalamar October 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Now with the top 2 candidate system, expect to see more of the same as this election. One of the "Democratic" candidates is a republican but will change party affiliations to game the system to mislead voters into voting for them. Redistricting is just another tool to game the system to reinforce the first ploy. Let's see who has Swallell's ear and who he 'represents' if he is elected.
Andrew October 26, 2012 at 06:49 PM
After reading all of this, the 8 registered voters in our family are voting absentee for Swallell. Stark has had his day in the sun.
Andrew October 26, 2012 at 06:49 PM
can't be worse than what we have now


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