Look forward to quite an election this fall in Alameda County when the venerable Rep. Pete Stark faces a spirited challenge from 31-year-old Eric Swalwell of Dublin that will build off Swalwell’s strong showing in Tuesday’s primary.
Unofficial primary results showed Stark leading with 42 percent with Swalwell running a strong second at 36 percent and conservative candidate Chris Pareja picking up 22 percent. The challenge for Swalwell will be to get virtually all of those anti-Stark votes because a much higher voter turnout can be expected in November with the presidential race likely drawing many more Democrats to the polling places.
If Swalwell’s campaign can get Stark to engage in more face-to-face debates, then long-time Stark supporters can see just how out of touch and aged the 40-year rep has become. Living in Maryland and working in the Capitol lets Alameda County become out of sight and out of mind very easily for the octogenarian.
What’s notable in Stark’s case is that his legislative record is non-descript at best yet he has the party’s backing. He’s gained the most notoriety for his loose lips—a mouth so out-of-control that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrat House leaders would not let him take over as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee after Charlie Rangel had to resign.
Swalwell’s key will be to build name recognition in what has been Stark’s core area of Hayward, Union City and the Fremont area. He will need to win more Democratic votes in that area to win. It will be an interesting balancing act to not veer so far left that he loses the anti-Stark conservative vote, but to hit a note that will attract moderate Democrats.
REP. JERRY MCNERNEY, who has represented Pleasanton until redistricting put his hometown in the same district as Stark, is running in a San Joaquin County-based district—a wise move from the standpoint that the majority of his former district was made up of San Joaquin folks. Prior to redistricting, he had worked hard on San Joaquin issues and increased his efforts once he declared in that district.
McNerney drew the most primary votes with 48 percent to 40 percent for his November challenger Rick Gill. The district leans Democrat, but Republicans have it on their target list.
For the other Livermore Valley districts, there wasn’t much news: Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan cruised to an easy primary win as did state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier. No significant challenges are likely to arise in the fall. That, incidentally, was true throughout much of the Bay Area, particularly with incumbents in the races where they drew 60 or 70 percent or more of the vote.
What was surprising was the wide margin that Danville Mayor Candace Anderson piled up over Tomi Van de Brooke in the race for the open seat on the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors. In what could easily have been a run-off because of a third candidate in the race, Anderson won 61 percent of the vote to win the seat come January.
It’s likely, despite her Republican registration, that Gov. Jerry Brown now will appoint her to fill out the term of the late Supervisor Gail Uilkema who died last month. She will be the first San Ramon Valley resident to represent the area since appointed Supervisor Millie Greenberg (a former Danville mayor and councilwoman) was defeated by Mary Piepho in 2004. Piepho was re-elected in a tough battle with termed out Assemblyman Guy Houston four years later and then was unopposed for re-election easily this year after her district was shifted entirely to Eastern Contra Costa in the redistricting.