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Congressional Race Between Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell Enters the Final Stretch

Though it's not clear who's winning the race for the seat in the 15th Congressional District, it is clear Rep. Pete Stark is in a fight for his political life.

If you've been following the presidential race, it's easy to stay up-to-date on the horse race, with national and state polls released every day and thorough analysis of all the data.

Local congressional races, even ones that have garnered national attention like the one here in the 15th Congressional District between Democrats Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell, are a little different.

With less than three weeks left until Election Day, there hasn't been any public polling and neither campaign has released any internal polling. But after speaking with both campaigns, what does seem clear is that after 40 years in Congress Rep. Stark is in a fight for his political life against the 31-year-old Dublin city councilman.

"I see us surging," Swalwell recently said in an interview. "We've received endorsements from the Chronicle, Tri-Valley Times and BANG...I believe the momentum is on our side."

The congressman doesn't lack endorsements either, including the biggest of them all in the Democratic Party — President Barack Obama.

But after decades of having a cakewalk to reelection, the new top-two primary system in California has forced Stark, one of the most liberal members of Congress, to try and win reelection against a fellow Democrat in the general election.

The demographics of the new 15th Congressional District, which goes from San Ramon down to Fremont and east through Livermore, doesn't help Stark either. Though it's a Democratic leaning district, it's not as liberal as Stark's old district that went from Alameda down to Newark.

Swalwell is fairly liberal himself (on policy, the campaigns admit there isn't much of a difference), but with Republican voters in the district stuck voting for a Democrat, the Swalwell campaign hopes they see their candidate as the lesser of two evils.

In the primary election in June, Stark came out ahead with 42.9 percent of the vote to Swalwell's 35.3. But voter turnout was low, and the most conservative candidate in the race, Chris Pareja, won 21.5 percent of the vote.

What voters won't have a chance to see in the final weeks of the campaign is a debate. During the primary campaign, Stark accused Swalwell of taking bribes in a debate, which he later apologized for.

The argument from the Stark campaign is that there was a debate in the spring and there isn't a need for another one now.

"We had debates," said Sharon Cornu, Stark's campaign manager. "Now we're out talking to voters at their door and the congressman is meeting with constituents and has a full schedule."

The Swalwell campaign wants a debate, saying that the previous debates were for the primary — when there were three candidates — and that not having one now is an example of Stark dodging the public.

"His actions in our debates for the primary were outrageous and bizarre," Swalwell said. "He seemed unhinged and it showed his lack of fitness for office and that he's not up for the job."

With just over two weeks until Election Day, both campaigns say they are focused on talking to as many voters as possible.

"We're working hard and talking to voters every day and the response has been very positive," Cornu said. "Pete Stark is a fighter. He continues to fight to protect medicare, social security, investing in education and rebuilding the middle class."

The Swalwell campaign says they have knocked on 70,000 doors and have volunteers calling voters every day.

Swalwell does see policy differences between him in Stark. Swalwell says he wants to repeal the No Child Left Behind education law (Stark has stated he would amend the law) and will protect funding for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Stark would like to cut military funding).

While Stark's campaign says their candidate has a long track-record of fighting in Washington, Swalwell says Stark is way past his prime.

"He's not up for the job and it's time to move on," Swalwell said. "You have to be connected and on the ground and he's been absent and asleep at the wheel."

Who is getting your vote for Congress? Tell us who and why in the comments section.

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Tim October 23, 2012 at 02:20 AM
It's going to be such a landslide for Romney, we won't need to wait for the west coast polls to close lol. It will be over after the Mountain Time Zone states close.
Summer Hemphill October 23, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I voted for Gary Johnson & anybody who'd vote for a Republican is a conservative cretin,that's no generalization just the facts as I see them ! Obama will carry California by millions of votes & be re-elected by a plurality of Democratic & Independent voters with or without my single vote ! All indications are he'll win re-election & I wish him well in his second term ! And neither Gary Johnson or Ron Paul (both of whom support legalizing marijuana as does our Congressman Pete Stark) could garner enough support to win their own parties nomination ! Obama is too conservative for my liking & hasn't been confrontational enough with Republican obstructionists in Congress to earn my vote again,but only a moron would vote for Romney !
Edward October 24, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Swalwell Is endorsed by Police and Sheriffs so I wonder where he stands on Cannabis? What ever happened to the 5X5 Home Cannabis plots we were supposed to have the last election? When you talk about smaller Government, it sure does not sound like Republicans want government to get out of our backyards, our choice of who we love or what rights we have to form a Labor Union. GOP is for more Government control of our lives, not less. Only MONEY counts to the GOP.
Bong Sativa October 24, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Former prosecutor Swalwell has made it quite clear that he thinks that medical marijuana is a sham & he vehemently opposes medical marijuana dispensaries. He was instrumental in Dublin's illegal ban on dispensaries,a violation of his oath of office to uphold state law. Congressman Pete Stark on the other hand has been a hard working & vocal advocate for the reform of marijuana laws in Congress & with the Treasury Department & the DEA. In 2010 55% of Alameda County voters wanted to legalize marijuana completely & any politician who opposes medical marijuana is certainly out of step with the majority of their potential constituents. That's why we need to send Congressman Pete Stark back to Washington next year to represent our interests & finish his vital work on our behalf ! Thanks Pete,we love you !
Bong Sativa October 26, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Today's Huffington Post reprises allegations that the $15,000.00 dollars in Congressional campaign contributions that Swalwell received from a national waste management conglomerate was in return for his voting to award a no-bid contract to their firm for trash collection in Dublin !!! This garbage stinks as much as the ensuing rate hike for Dublin residents who are required by law to use the trash collection services of whoever the city awards this monopoly to ! Former prosecutor Swalwell should have the integrity to know better,but this is just the sort of sleazy thing one would expect from someone who'd challenge a twenty-term Congressman from his own purported party ! This is why Pete Stark has the endorsement of the Democratic Party & President Obama who said he needed Pete & asked voters to send Pete back to Congress again ! Swalwell's only route to victory is to pander to Republicans,right-wing tea-party zealots & the religious right who abhor the many decades of Pete's efforts on behalf of Democratic voters ! Pete Stark has dedicated forty years of his life to advancing the noble Democratic principals held so dearly by his constituents & he certainly deserves another two years to continue his essential work representing us !!!

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