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.
Ro ran against Lantos because Lantos voted for the war in Iraq and Patriot Act. it was a campaign of principle.
Stark ran against Miller because Miller voted for the Vietnam war.
The issue here is not respect for Pete or loyalty to Pete. The issue is having a substantive issue to run on, and offering a compelling message.
Swalwell has no message. He will lose for that reason. No specifics.
In 14, we'll see whether Stark, Ro, or Corbett have the best message. Whoever does will win this seat.
Ro seems to have learned about “loyalty” the hard way, having run unsucessfuly in 2004 against former DEMOCRATIC Congressmember Tom Lantos (or does the above commenter have selective memory about party loyalty?) . The party insiders seemed to have scared him off this time around though — too bad. To quote Stark from his 1972 race against then DEMOCRATIC Congressman Miller (again, where was this holy “party loyalty” on the part of Stark in '72?): “I think the way Miller kept people from opposing him all these years was by telling them in another couple years he'd retire. I think the fact is, he'll stay there until he dies.” (this quote was in the Chronicle piece this week)
If Ro didn't listen to the party insiders this time around (and if his previous experience didn't give him cold feet), he may very well have been positioned to win in 2012. He picked the wrong race to run against an aged incumbent….
On another note, this blind loyalty to “party” makes me sick. Stark is clearly no longer fit for office. I wish more people out there put loyalty to the district and it's people over “loyalty” to some group of party insiders. I've always thought that democratic representation was supposed to be merit based, and not tenured!
What is it about Ro that we should admire when you say he “always made it perfectly clear that he would not run against people (Stark), unlike Corbett”
So does that mean if Stark decided to run yet again in 2014, that Ro would continue to sit on the sidelines.
How about the people of the district. Are they suppose to just support Pete because he's been there forever, regardless of how competent he is.
Thats crazy, and flies in the face of exactly what Pete Stark himself did in 1972.
Half the district is new. Do those folks, who have never been represented by Pete also have to bow down to his 40 year crown of incumbancy.
Our democracy needs to be a bit more vibrant and Alameda County Democratic politics needs to give the people a choice, not history and tradition.
We don't have to wait for the party leaders to get off the dime and offer us a real choice.
I won't vote for Pete again. If Ro and Corbett finally decide to run in 2014 then we'll have to evaluate them against whoever wins this year.
That is how democracy is suppose to work.
This is about the people of the entire new district, not about loyalty to party leaders, not about Pete, or Ro, or Corbett, or Swalwell. The people's seat.
No ingratiating was needed – Ro and Pete have been friends and progressive colleagues for years. Ro has always made it perfectly clear that he would not run against people unlike Corbett. I get it that cynicism is easy but with Ro, what you see is exactly what you get.
I thought there would be more comment; so far, my article has not appeared in either the Chron or Review. I also wrote to Marrucci of Chron;she had scathing item on Pete. Told her to read my reply-she has yet to respond. Can you print my letter in full? Thanks! Tony Santos