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Congressional Race Between Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell Enters the Final Stretch

Though it's not clear who's winning the race for the seat in the 15th Congressional District, it is clear Rep. Pete Stark is in a fight for his political life.

If you've been following the presidential race, it's easy to stay up-to-date on the horse race, with national and state polls released every day and thorough analysis of all the data.

Local congressional races, even ones that have garnered national attention like the one here in the 15th Congressional District between Democrats Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell, are a little different.

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

Swalwell is fairly liberal himself (on policy, the campaigns admit there isn't much of a difference), but with Republican voters in the district stuck voting for a Democrat, the Swalwell campaign hopes they see their candidate as the lesser of two evils.

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.

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 argument from the Stark campaign is that there was a debate in the spring and there isn't a need for another one now.

"We had debates," said Sharon Cornu, Stark's campaign manager. "Now we're out talking to voters at their door and the congressman is meeting with constituents and has a full schedule."

The Swalwell campaign wants a debate, saying that the previous debates were for the primary — when there were three candidates — and that not having one now is an example of Stark dodging the public.

"His actions in our debates for the primary were outrageous and bizarre," Swalwell said. "He seemed unhinged and it showed his lack of fitness for office and that he's not up for the job."

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."

Who is getting your vote for Congress? Tell us who and why in the comments section.

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Frank Mockery October 20, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Swalwell (1 term City Councilman) is inexperienced & hasn't paid his dues in local Democratic political circles ! It takes a lot of unmitigated gall not only to challenge a sitting Democratic Congressman facing little Republican opposition,but to cut to the front of the line in front of so many much more qualified & worthy potential candidates to replace him upon his retirement ! Marga is absolutely correct,the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee endorsed Pete Stark,holds Eric Swalwell in contempt for his treachery & if he wins will spend the next two years grooming a candidate to replace him !!! Fifty-five percent of Alameda County voters favored legalizing marijuana in 2010,yet Eric Swalwell opposes medical cannabis dispensaries & a patient' right to "safe & legal access" legal under state law ! He's violated his oath of office to uphold state law & put his personal bias before the needs of his constituents by being instrumental in Dublin's illegal ban on cannabis dispensaries ! On the other hand Congressman Stark (along with Ron Paul (R),Dana Rohrabacher (R),Barbara Lee (D),Mike Honda (D) & Barney Frank (D) ) has been a co-author & supporter of many measures to change policies concerning marijuana at the federal level ! At a crucial time when the will of California voters is under attack by the federal government electing Eric Swalwell would be a large step backward for our patients & supporters ! Remember who your friends are & vote for our friend Pete Stark !!!
Longtime Resident October 21, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Frank, your pretty entertaining in a sad way. You would've done well in the Soviet Union. Do you have the ability to think for yourself or do you always spout party doctrine?
Bong Sativa October 22, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Re-elect our Congressman Pete Stark (D) our "friend" in Washington for forty years !
Summer Hemphill October 25, 2012 at 05:48 AM
Re-elect Congressman Pete Stark for the twentieth time,because we need an experienced & effective advocate to represent us & champion the progressive Democratic agenda for another two years in Washington D.C. !!!
Ryan Sherman October 31, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Salwell is a teabagger in disguise. Avoid him at all costs. He would be a disaster in Congress.

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