Tri-Valley Congressman Eric Swalwell officially ended his presidential bid on Monday after three months of campaigning, becoming the first serious Democratic candidate to bow out of the crowded field.
Announcing his decision during a press conference on Monday in Dublin, the 38-year-old legislator said he will instead seek a fifth term in California’s 15th Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It’s really a personal decision. We looked at the upcoming debate, the September debate, and we had money in our account to try and qualify for the upcoming debate. But we believe that even if we had done that… it just wouldn't add up,” Swalwell said. “We wanted to be honest with ourselves and with our supporters. If there was a viable chance, I would not be standing here today. From day one, I was running to win.”
Swalwell further explained that after the first presidential debate last month, his polling and fundraising numbers had not improved in the way his team had hoped, and he “no longer saw a path forward” for his campaign.
“I want to thank, most importantly, my constituents. The only reason that a son of a cop who is the first in his family to go to college would believe that he could run for president and alleviate the issue of gun violence is because I am around people who have the spirit of risk taking and learning from their failures and turning them into successes,” he added.
Since announcing his candidacy in April, Swalwell made government transparency, education and healthcare central pillars of his campaign, but ending gun violence and enforcing gun reforms were the cornerstones of his campaign.
Swalwell made an appearance on the second night of Democratic presidential debates in Miami, where he was unable to make the impact his campaign needed while going toe-to-toe with more prominent party candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). But he said there was a silver lining to his appearance.
“(We’ve) moved the needle on the debate stage on an issue that I was very passionate about. I believe that every candidate should pledge that they would support a ban and buyback of the 15 million assault weapons in our country. And on the one opportunity I had to do that, our three front runners that were on the stage with me … all three said that they support me,” he said.
Throughout the course of his campaign, there was wide speculation in the East Bay that Swalwell would not seek re-election to his congressional seat if he decided to run for president, a sentiment that he explained was not strictly true.
“I said that I wouldn’t seek both. Our attorneys have told us that you can ruin for both (but) that decision wouldn’t have to come until December and if we were still running in December I wouldn’t seek both,” he said, adding that he is excited to continue working in the district.
Since unseating longtime congressman and fellow Democrat Pete Stark in November 2012, Swalwell has won his reelection bids with ease, consistently defeating challengers by large margins of double digit percentage points.
Hayward City Councilwoman Aisha Wahab will look to challenge that streak however, having announced her bid for the Tri-Valley’s 15th Congressional District shortly after Swalwell’s presidential campaign began in April.
"Our community is changing rapidly. Many people in our community are struggling to remain in the Bay Area and find good jobs that pay a living wage. We live in one of the wealthiest regions of the country, yet many people in our community cannot afford to see a doctor when they are sick." Wahab said in a statement that was released April 12. “It is time for one of us to fight for all of us in Congress.”
Wahab is a self described community organizer, former foster child, nonprofit director, millennial and says she was the first Afghan-American woman to be elected to public office in the United States.
Swalwell said he hasn’t spoken to Wahab yet but respects anyone who makes the decision to run for office.
“I welcome anyone who wants to run. I think it's what makes our country great, is that ideas are tested. I expect there will be other people who may consider running too,” he added.
Over concerns that his national campaign would have hurt his standing with local voters, Swalwell said he hopes voters will see that “the issues that I ran on nationally are the issues of the district.”
“People in our district have student loan debt. Our district is seeing sea levels rise that can affect communities. Our district sends our kids to schools and worries about their safety,” he said.
The congressman added that he doesn’t take anything for granted and he is going to continue to be an active member of his community.
“I don't take anything for granted,” he said. “I’m going to go right after this meeting to meet with constituents about immigration and the border (and) we have a town hall coming up in about two weeks ... I beat a 40-year incumbent in 2012 who had taken the district for granted.”
When asked if he would do anything differently in his presidential campaign, Swalwell gave a quick “no,” but reversed course, saying: “I would have taken my kids out with us (more), they were really popular,” he laughed, “I should have brought them out more.”
Swalwell added that he is not yet ready to officially endorse a candidate to oppose President Donald Trump, but said Democrats will “need a candidate who is tested because Donald Trump is the best political puncher ever.”