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Rep. Eric Swalwell joins the crowded 2020 presidential field

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said April 8 he will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, joining a crowded field vying to take on President Trump. (Video: Swalwell for America)

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Monday he will seek the Democratic nomination for president, offering himself as a fresh face from a younger generation to lead his party in its bid to unseat President Trump.

Swalwell, 38, formally announced his campaign during an appearance on CBS’s “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Monday evening.

“I see a country in quicksand, unable to solve problems and threats from abroad, unable to make life better for people here at home. Nothing gets done,” he said in a video clip from the show’s taping that was distributed via social media hours before the show was set to air.

Swalwell said he talked to teachers, truckers, nurses and young people who “sit in their classroom afraid that they’ll be the next victim of gun violence, and they see Washington doing nothing about it after the moment of silence.”

Hitting hard on the generational theme, he added that “none of that is going to change until we get a leader who’s willing to go big on the issues we take on, be bold in the solutions we offer and do good in the way that we govern. I’m ready to solve these problems. I’m running for president of the United States.”

Swalwell is set to hold a town hall meeting on ending gun violence Tuesday in Sunrise, Fla. The location is not far from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 students and school staff were killed in a shooting last year.

“I’m making sure gun violence is front and center in our national policy debate,” Swalwell, who represents Northern California’s East Bay, said in a statement announcing the town hall.

He also plans to hold a rally in Dublin, Calif., in his home district, on Sunday.

A frequent guest on cable news programs in recent years because of his perch on the House Intelligence Committee, Swalwell is largely known for opining on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

He is not a household name, but lacking a national profile has not been a hurdle preventing others from joining the 2020 field. Swalwell is hoping some combination of his youth, social media savvy and push for aggressive policies will generate interest in his candidacy.

Others who fit that profile have seen early success. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for example, was relatively unknown before a breakout moment on his televised CNN town hall generated buzz and more than $7 million in campaign donations. And Swalwell came into Congress in the same class as Beto O’Rourke, who has risen in early polls because of a combination of charisma and a unifying message.

Swalwell has been laying the groundwork for a run for several years, making more than 20 trips to Iowa since 2017, according to an aide. He also visited the other early-voting states of New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada in that time frame.

“The promise of America is not reaching all Americans,” Swalwell said at a Politics and Eggs breakfast in New Hampshire in February. “The best way to bring that promise of America to all Americans is to go big on the issues we take on,” he added, listing improving health care, reducing student debt and tightening gun laws.

Swalwell passes several of the early litmus tests liberal activists in the Democratic field are using to evaluate candidates: He is a co-sponsor of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal resolution and a supporter of Medicare-for-all legislation that would eliminate most private health insurance.

In Congress, Swalwell is known for launching the Future Forum, a group of young Democratic House members focused on issues important to millennials like reducing student debt. The organization, which he chaired from when it started in 2015 until this year, gave him the chance to visit more than 50 cities around the country.

The group nearly doubled in size to 50 members after the 2018 midterm elections ushered in a younger crop of new lawmakers.

Though he has made efforts to ally himself with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Swalwell has frequently shown a willingness to go against the prevailing winds in his party.

He was one of the few Democratic House members to endorse a presidential candidate other than Hillary Clinton during the last election, instead backing former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.

More significant, he successfully challenged Rep. Pete Stark in 2012, taking on a 40-year Democratic incumbent against the wishes of the party.

Parts of Swalwell’s biography could be helpful for his presidential run. He was born in Iowa and spent his first six years in Algona, a small town in the northern reaches of the state, which holds the first primary contest in the presidential campaign.

His family moved and ultimately settled in California, which will be voting much earlier than in past presidential cycles. And he was the first in his family to earn a college degree, a fact he likes to tout.

Swalwell and his family are steeped in law enforcement, which could raise concerns from the wing of the Democratic Party focused on racial inequities in the criminal justice system.

Swalwell’s father was a police officer, as are two of his three brothers. He worked as a prosecutor for Alameda County, which includes Oakland, Calif., after earning his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Maryland.