May 10, 2012 | Eric Swalwell’s campaign said Wednesday Rep. Pete Stark declined an invitation from the chamber of commerces in Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon for a debate on May 21. Stark said he was “too busy,” according to a press release put out by Swalwell, while finding the groups not “reputable.”

“The Tri-Valley should not be ignored. This area was not previously represented by Congressman Stark in the old CA-13 and voters here deserve to hear from all the candidates where we stand on issues important to them,” said Swalwell.

Offering the incumbent to debate, being turned down and then portraying it as your opponent’s skittishness to face their challenger is a common dance in every race.

Instead what may be more instructive to voters in the western part of the new 15th congressional district would be to see Swalwell debate Stark somewhere in Hayward. There is a growing perception in that area that Swalwell tends to wilt in surroundings that are less rah-rah than the hearty reception he receives in the Tri-Valley.

When speaking before the Hayward Demos last March, his negative attacks on Stark fell flat with local Democrats. Afterwards, he quickly fled the room. Swalwell did the same thing, while also looking disinterested, after speaking last month at Cal State East Bay. Whether there is a hint of youthful petulance or nerves in Swalwell’s DNA is definitely something to keep an eye out for.