Newcomer Eric Swalwell unseats incumbent Pete Stark | KALW

Newcomer Eric Swalwell unseats incumbent Pete Stark

Nov 7, 2012

California’s 15th District race featured young newcomer and Democrat Eric Swalwell challenging the 39-year incumbent Democrat Pete Stark. It didn’t look too good for Swalwell ​– and even the Democratic party endorsed his rival – but last night Stark was unseated by his challenger.

At the victory party in Pleasanton, at least 80 supporters packed the Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association headquarters, as the ticker on the bottom of the big TV screen said: “California District 15: Swalwell 52; Stark 47.”

James Morehead held up a homemade “Honk for Swalwell” sign he and his 12-year-old daughter made. He sees Swalwell’s victory as an endorsement of the open primary system.

“It allowed people to challenge the incumbents in ways that simply were not possible before. There was a structural change. Eric saw an opportunity, took advantage of it,” said Morehead.

Swalwell also resonated with the younger crowd, something 18-year-old Sai Kommidi said isn’t possible with the incumbent, Pete Stark.

“He doesn’t even live in this area. He actually lives in Maryland and he’s still representing this district. I just find it really insulting that a candidate that doesn’t even care about this area would represent us. So I feel like Eric Swalwell, he grew up here, he’s been in Dublin for a long time, and I think he’s gonna bring new energy and change to Congress,” Kommidi said.

“If this was a sports event, he’d be on the cover of ESPN magazine and Sports Illustrated! It’s one of the biggest upsets ever!” Swalwell supporter Sean Wilson said.

According to Wilson, this is what the democratic process was meant to do: “David and Goliath. The political machine doesn’t always win. You can have hope and a dream, and if you do hard work it’ll pay off. This is quintessential of a democracy, right here tonight.”

Swalwell himself beamed as he greeted his supporters, posed for photos with his family, prepared for a live TV interview, and for the job ahead of him as U.S. Congressman for District 15. His supporters agree that he ran a smart campaign. But according to Swalwell, "There’s no secret to success here. It’s the hard work. When you go out the way that we went out there, full throttle, for a year, they’ll reward you. And I think that’s paid off tonight."