ELECTION 2012 - CONGRESS 15
Nov. 7, 2011 | Rep. Pete Stark has represented the East Bay in Congress for nearly 40 years not just because of political entrenchment or voter apathy, as his opponents often assert. It's because he's one hell of a shrewd campaigner.
You would think a congressmen virtually unopposed for decades (he has not inched below garnering 70 percent of the electorate since 1980) would have a modicum of rust on his weary 79-year-old bones. Apparently, old Pete is still spry and ready for a re-election campaign next year.
Case in point: last week Stark outsmarted his vastly younger Democrat challenger, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, by baiting him way to the right of the district's liberal constituency.
Swalwell swallowed the bait.
Stark was one of only nine members of Congress who voted against the ridiculous reaffirmation of "In God We Trust" as the national motto. (Shall we reaffirm baseball as the "national pastime, too?) Stark's vote is not surprise. He's the only proud Atheist in Washington.
To Swalwell, the vote seemed like an gaping hole to run through, but it was not. Unless his campaign is gambling everything to sweep the more moderate East County, then it was good move towards a likely unfulfilled campaign. "The 15th Congressional District deserves a member of Congress who is in touch with its people, can work well with others, and can honor our national motto," Swalwell told the Contra Costa Times last week.
Stark must have been gleefully rubbing his arthritic hands after hearing Swalwell's more conservative message that nods slightly to the Tri-Valley's undercurrent of Tea Party adherents.
If this were 2020, Swalwell's move would return the kind of positive traction that does not yet exist in this district, despite early movements by the last Census into the Tri-Valley. The rest of 15th District has never been inclined to mix politics and religion. It's why Stark can speak his mind on the lack of religion in his own personal life and remain unscathed.
Swalwell took a needless right turn on his own volition when instead, the road to Congress in the 15th is a left turn.