By Tim Hunt
Democrat establishment backing StarkUploaded: Oct 1, 2012
The Congressional race here in the Livermore Valley and southern Alameda County has drawn national attention as it pits the 20-term incumbent Pete Stark against Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell.
The Wall Street Journal weighed in on Saturday with an article centered on the race. The New York Times and Washington Post also have written about the race.
It's interesting to the reporters and editors because this race stems directly from voter-approved initiativesone allowed open primaries with the two candidates receiving the most votes in the primary advancing to the November general election. For the past 10 years, thanks to the bipartisan gerrymandering to protect incumbents and their parties, almost 99 percent of the races were decided in the primary.
The second intiative removed post-census redistricting to adjust for population shifts from the Legislature and the governor and assigned it to a citizens' commission. That process substantially shifted Stark's district, including the Livermore Valley, for the first time since the 70s and the 80s, and put him in the same district as fellow incumbent Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton.
McNerney is notable because he rode the perfect storm of 2006 into office and retained it in favorable conditions in 2008 and then again in 2010 in tougher going. He's moved to Stockton to run in a Democratic-leaning district hereSan Joaquin County included about half of his former district.
Swalwell's spirited challenge against a fellow Democrat runs directly counter to the Democratic establishment which is backing Stark who hasn't lived in the district for years. He lives in Maryland and, prior to the challenge, has made infrequent visits to the district. Despite his absentee representation and tongue that shoots first and then wonders where to aim, the octogenarian is supported by the Democrat party across the board.
It's notable that the Dems in Congress would not trust him to chair the Ways and Means Committee in the House after longtime chairman Charley Rangel had to resign for violating ethics and financial disclosure laws.
Nonetheless, the mailer that arrived last week touted the support of President Obama and Sen. Dianne Feinstein along with Sen. Barbara Boxer and the entire Bay Area Congressional delegation. The county party in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties also back him as do state Attorney General Kamala Harris and state schools chief Tom Torlakson.
What's no surprise is that Stark wants no part of debating Swalwell, a deputy district attorney for Alameda County. His handlers are limiting public exposure because a face-to-face could well be disastrous if it drew significant media attention.
Incidentally, Feinstein is taking the same road against Danville challenger Elizabeth Emken. Feinstein has nothing to gain by debating and thus simply is riding her record and her popularity to yet-another term.
In Stark's case, the record of achievements is sadly lackingthe mailer touts his efforts to fight for the president's unpopular government grab of the health care system. Notably, it does not call out specific or important legislation that he's offered. That speaks to 40 years in Congress with the last 20 well detached from issues of importance to Alameda County. That was easy because of the overwhelming Democrat registration in the district and no Democrat willing to buck the party bosses and take him on.
We'll know in a little over a month whether that worked for Swalwell. Notably, he's a doctrinaire Democrat and shares many of Stark's views. However, the conservative disgust with Stark likely will gather Swalwell votes under the "Anyone but Pete" mantra.