CONGRESS 15 | Even as election returns Tuesday night in the 15th Congressional District race between Rep. Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell slowed to snail’s pace, but showed little hope for the incumbent's return to Capitol Hill. The chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party Robin Torrello, though, was still holding out hope. “My glass is always half-full,” she said at the party’s headquarters in Hayward.
But, the sense the East Bay was about to lose its most decorated progressive voice was quickly setting in. “I feel sorry for him,” said San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola. “He did a lot of good things for San Leandro. Pete did so much for the people of this district and more than people give him credit for.”
Others were not as kind when it came to the new Congressman-elect Swalwell with much of it already centered on 2014. “He’s going to have a target on his back,” said one Democratic Party volunteer. “John Boehner is going to come up to him and thank him for what he did.” Another added, at least initially, Swalwell will be more popular among conservatives than his own party for nothing more than slaying one of their most vitriolic opponents.
Torrello also voiced support for Stark's long legacy while taking aim at Tri Valley business interests and the woeful performance of the local media in this race. “This man has done so much for the community,” she said, while ticking off his role in drafting health care reform legislation, instituting COBRA and bringing billions in federal dollars to the county for transportation, schools and infrastructure. “The whole Tri Valley couldn’t have been built without him, including those business parks that gave money to Swalwell. What did they do? They turned their back on Pete.”
Referring to the seat’s precipitous drop in seniority under Swalwell, Torrello said the district will struggle to maintain its current place in line when it comes to federal dollars. “The spigot is closed,” she said.
She also faulted the local media for failing to focus on the issues or examining Swalwell’s record. “When you run a campaign on lies and innuendo and the media only covers the sensationalism rather than the facts, we all lose.” She said instances of Swalwell’s pay-to-play past in the Tri Valley were well known, but neglected by the media, as was the falsehood repeated by Swalwell that Stark was habitually absent from the district despite consistently holding town hall meetings every month for years. “Name another congressman who meets with their constituents more than him?”
As the clock passed midnight, leaving Election Night in the rearview, one of the likely participants in the race to make Swalwell a one-term congressman briskly walked into headquarters. Her name: Ellen Corbett.