ELECTION ’12//CONGRESS 15
May 7, 2012 | There appears to be a small, but growing backlash to the San Francisco Chronicle’s scathing attack last week on Rep. Pete Stark. How large the push back by local Democratic Party apparatchiks and long-time supporters remains to be seen. Various conversations with operatives this weekend seem to indicate that the perception the 40-year congressman is merely “too old” will stick through the November general election. (Conversely, it’s sometimes difficult to discern whether some political consultants are actually trashing Stark on its merits or looking for a job working in the potential Swalwell administration. The presence of a few Cinco de Mayo margaritas also clouds the question.)
The sentiment supporting Stark’s record are well represented in a opinion piece penned by the former mayor of San Leandro, Tony Santos. “While you can criticize Congressman Stark, it is your right to do so,” Santos wrote in the San Leandro Patch. “I ask that you do not forget the service Congressman Stark provided to his country, his community and to all of us in his district.”
One consultant not involved in the 15th congressional race speculated unless Stark “disappears” for awhile and stops committing horrific unforced errors, the party’s establishment–2014 congressional contenders like Ro Khanna and State Sen. Ellen Corbett–will have to be summoned way earlier than expected in hopes of keeping the path clear for their own congressional campaigns in two years.
Khanna, for example, held a fundraiser for Stark this month and, according to many insiders, has ingratiated himself well to Stark. Whether Stark’s sudden fondness for Khanna can be attributed to political expediency or genuine adoration is anyone’s guess, at this point. However, because of the unique dynamic created by Stark’s not allowing for a hint of succession and two highly-qualified and well-heeled candidates in 2014 lurking in the wings, there is a possibility Stark’s campaign may need to blunt the resumption of Swalwell’s insurrection later this year by hinting at either Khanna or Corbett becoming the party’s standard bearing in CD15, if Stark should win re-election. Both appear more progressive than Swalwell, who is hinting his politics run closer to Blue Dog Democrats like former Rep. Ellen Tauscher–whom he worked for–than rigid left wingers the rest of the district is more comfortable electing.
Of course, such a scenario is more likely if the current tragic trajectory of Stark’s campaign somehow defies logic and continue to spiral into oblivion. More likely, Stark finally comes to terms with the fact he has a viable challenger. An extensive vetting of Swalwell’s scant record of any achievement comes to the forefront along with his peculiar, prosecutorial manner of speak. Campaigns have peaks and valleys, we don’t know how Swalwell will handle the immense pressure he will soon face, especially, as the spotlight moves from Stark’s foibles to his own.