And he’s looking for support near his old stamping ground in College Park as he seeks to shake up his own party’s establishment by unseating veteran House Democrat Pete Stark (Calif.).
Among those aiding Swalwell is the vice chairman of the Prince George’s County Council, Eric Olson (D-College Park), who has known Swalwell since Swalwell became the first student liaison to the College Park City Council.
Now, encouraged by his success in local California politics and emboldened by changes in the state’s primary system, Swalwell is seeking national office.
“The voters are looking for some new energy and some new ideas,” Swalwell said on a recent trip to Washington to raise money and meet with potential supporters before his primary in June.
California has adopted a system in which all candidates from all parties compete in the primary and the top two winners face off in November’s general election. The system has been challenged in court, but if it survives, Stark and Swalwell may end up running against each other twice. So far, Swalwell, who announced his candidacy in September, is Stark’s only announced challenger.
Redistricting, which in California was done by a citizens group rather than state party leaders, has left Stark in what one expert says is “less comfortable” territory but not one that should cause him big problems.
“He would be the favorite,” said San Jose State University political scientist Larry Gerston. “He should be fairly comfortable, although it will not be as comfortable for him as it was in the past.”
The newly drawn district in the East Bay area near San Francisco is 49 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican and 23 percent undeclared, which Gerston said could chip into Stark’s traditional base. Although there are more-experienced politicians waiting in the wings for Stark to retire, Swalwell figured that the new district gave him an opportunity to jump in now.
Swalwell politely sidesteps questions about his youth vs. Stark’s experience, but he points out that Stark was passed over by his colleagues to head the House Ways and Means Committee, although he remained head of the powerful health subcommittee. Swalwell says he is closer to the pulse of the district, which redistricting made less Democratic.
“People are looking for someone who is connected to the district,” Swalwell said. He said he’s not sure that Stark’s firebrand liberalism will play well in the changed district.