Stark Needs To Turnout Party Faithful; Swalwell Must Manage Expectations

June 4, 2012 | Progressive Democrats in the 15th district can gripe about redistricting that may diminish the blue hue of southern Alameda County, but blame the Guvinator and former guv-lite Abel Maldonado for this monstrosity called the open primary system.

The problem in CD15 was not a dearth of moderates, but the lack of a viable opposition party to rub up against. Nonetheless, the inclusion of the somewhat less liberal Tri Valley into Rep. Pete Stark’s district made a primary challenge by a Democrat more likely, especially since no Republican existed before and none since. The lack of even a token Republican was a big mistake and could have transformed this race to an even greater extent. Instead, Chris Pareja, who ran against Stark in 2010 as a write-in candidate chose the moniker of “no political party.” The theory goes, as it does in many East Bay races, that Republican voters will gravitate to those voters no matter what. By party affiliation, CD15 shakes down like this:


Pareja decision could make or break this race. Can he, with limited funds and name-recognition, capture enough decline to state voters from Swalwell, while also hoping the over 23 percent of conservative voters actually show up on Tuesday. On top of that, those same voters need to be educated enough on the fact Pareja is easily the most conservative candidate of the three. That’s a lot of big ifs.

Stark, Swalwell, Pareja

For the upstart Democrat Eric Swalwell, there is equally important questions and most include getting out the vote. Primary voters in this area, like most, are older and quite set in their party affiliations. These are the little old ladies who walk around on election day wearing red, white and blue hats festooned with labor unions pins and buttons going back to George McGovern.

During the June 2010 election, just 266,073 voter cast a vote in Alameda County, amounting to 35.30 percent of all registered voters. Swalwell needs that amount and more if he can hope to challenge Stark. Are primary voters in his targeted areas of Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore really that pumped for change Swalwell supposedly represents?

In the top two primary system, Swalwell only needs to finish second and hope for more wild antics from Stark until November. However, strategically, Swalwell needs to get as close as he can to Stark’s potential first place finish, while crossing his fingers that Pareja sinks and Swalwell benefits from a protest vote of Tea Party aficionados who don’t think Pareja can win and would never vote for Democrats, except in the case of sticking their fingers in the eye of the hated Stark.

Judging from Stark’s recent mailers (most of which are quite good), he is betting on his most loyal constituents–older voters–to win the June primary. Three mailers, for instance, one of which melds President Obama’s endorsement, trumpet Stark’s work with health care reform and his expertise on the issues seniors care about–Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Most consultants believe Stark cannot survive with anything less than 50 percent. Conversely, Stark garnering anything over 60 percent would mean curtains for either Swalwell or Pareja in the fall. Of course, that doesn’t take into account Stark doing something out of the ordinary in the future. For instance, quoting Hitler during some League of Women Voters forum around Labor Day or something equally outrageous.

There’s one other issue for Swalwell and the media that could ultimately be a blessing in disguise for Stark. Local television station, KTVU, ran a feature story on the race in CD15 that, like most produced by the media over the past few months, had an anti-Stark tone. The piece also implied Swalwell has a very good chance of winning Tuesday’s primary. Nevermind that Swalwell doesn’t implicitly needs to win, just finish second, for it to be a good night, but what happens to the general perception of the race, if the headline Wednesday morning is Stark wins?

You would think such a story, while positive, would have been followed by a Swalwell staffer quickly tamping down expectations, just in case, but no such language has been heard. The new lessons of the top two primary system may be consultants focusing on the prominence of merely managing expectations and perceptions, which could be more important than the actually tallying of votes this Tuesday night.

Categories: CD15, Chris Pareja, congress, Eric Swalwell, Pete Stark, Pleasanton

14 replies

  1. Good analysis- spot on. I like the top 2 primary- will make Dems like Hayashi and Stark work for a change to get re-elected.


  2. OK, here are my assumptions (guess-timates)

    As we see the registration is in CD-15

    Dem 48.7%
    Rep 23.7%
    NPP 22.5%
    Other 5.1%

    However, if overall turnout is 35% like June 2010 but with different rates for different parties.

    Dem 33%
    Rep 38%
    NPP 35%
    Other 30%

    That leave the final voter makeup at the poll as follows

    Dem 46.6%
    Rep 26.13%
    NPP 22.8%
    Other 4.4%

    So given those as the ones at the poll Tuesday.

    Then if Pete Stark gets the votes of the 4 groups at the following rate

    Dems 70%
    Rep 15%
    NPP 55%
    Other 55%

    With that percent of those groups, Pete Stark would end up with 51.48% of the total vote.

    I think those rates and final percentages are the minimum Pete will get.

    So for Pete, from 51.5% to perhaps 57% of the vote.

    In these situations those watching “the race” always see more action on the part of challengers than the general public sees or takes note of.
    Leaving the more unaware voters following their usual routine…. Go to the poll, can't decide, vote for the incumbent because they know his name.
    Big pre-election excitement almost never matches election day results when it comes to defeating incumbents.

    People out there are more interested in who wins Dancing With The Stars, than Pete Stark's blunders and gaffes of the past weeks.

    Big winner tomorrow, Ro Khanna.

    Also with say, 55% of the vote for Pete, it would be tough for Swalwell to find a theme to rally Republicans over to his side without losing Democrats in the process.
    Rather he will get the Republican votes by default in November.
    He needs a “message” for his November campaign or a enormous blunder by Pete.
    I say, Stark's team puts Pete in cold storage for the next 4 months.
    One wonders if he'll even keep doing his normal Town Hall meetings?

    And no more photos with Hayashi like in March


  3. Bigger winner if Pete wins is Ellen Corbett 2014.


  4. Ro Khanna is an idiot for publicly supporting Stark. Did you see him coming to Stark's defense on KTVU. What is the guy thinking? Corbett will benefit from having considered running against Stark, and people know the two can't stand each other. Swalwell benefits from taking Stark on. Ro will be seen as Stark and the party's guy.


  5. Expectations? Really? What expectations? Frankly if I were Swalwell I would be ashamed if I were to win a seat to Congress based on stunts (delivery of smelly chicken just one of the many examples). It is beneath the dignity of a lawyer to treat the electorate with such a deep level of disrespect and disregard. It would be so sad if Swalwell were to win and go to Congress on a platform of stunts, no policy and a “throw the bum out” catechism.

    I stopped by the Swalwell rally on Saturday at 10am (start time) and the parking lot was empty. I was convinced it had been cancelled but nope – just no one there.

    On Sunday, I went to Pete’s Rally in Dublin (gotta hand it to Pete, he's got balls to hold a rally in Swalwell's town) – more than 80 chairs were set up and all of them were taken, people lined the walls – people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds – true diversity. You could see the Swalwell truck driving up and down the street (who's too chicken now).

    It was predictable that KTVU, a FOX affiliate, would hammer Pete. Pete’s an avowed progressive with a 40 year history of standing up for exactly what he believes in, not the self-protectionism seen in so many politicians. Why would a Murdock affiliate do anything different? BANG and Chronicle have been so fractured by the internet age, their newsrooms so shredded, the competition inside what is left is so fevered that reporters are missing the point of their jobs – it’s more important for them to PROTECT their jobs.

    My guess is Pete hits over 60%
    Pareja gets 21%
    Swalwell gets 19%

    It’s not that he won’t reach expectations – it’s that he never had any for even himself.


  6. (First, am I the only one who isn't able
    to read the right hand side of this
    page in the above posts? )

    Now, re- 11:54 pm post,
    I'll grant you that Swalwell has not
    run a good campaign. I'm not sure he
    has the “charisma” thing to any degree.
    If you don't have that, you need a strong
    message to bring people to your cause.
    He really doesn't seem to have that message.

    Having said the above, your hacking away at
    KTVU, BANG and the Chronicle, all being out
    to “get Pete” is just absurd.
    Did you even watch the interviews?
    Pete was a embarassment to himself.
    That is why his campaign manager totally
    removed him from any further “uncontrolled”
    interviews or appearances.
    His rolling up the window on the KTVU
    reporter reminded one of a politician
    speeding away after some kind of illegalitiy
    had just come to light.
    Plain and simple, he is now frightened to
    speak to the press or in a public forum.

    If Ro Khanna or Corbett had run, Pete
    would now be fighting for his life.
    Either one of them could have taken Pete out
    in November.
    Swalwell will have to reinvent his campaign
    to have any chance in the November count.

    Face it, Pete is a shadow of his former self.
    When questioned by BANG as to what legislation
    he had authored in the past decade, he
    had no answer. Did you even watch the tape
    of that interview?

    A voter in the district, who voted for Pete in
    the first election in which they were eligible (back then age 21) should not expect to have
    only the same guy when they are about to
    retire at age 63 should Pete win.
    Forty two years. The guy is coasting, just holding down the seat. Has lost almost all
    the advantages of seniority due to his personality.
    Something, age or disease, has completely transformed the man in the past 5 years.

    He could have retired with dignity and
    allowed a true open election for the good
    of the district.
    Its not like a Republican would have won.
    Instead he selfishly clings to the seat,
    only propped up by the clubish inner circle
    that makes up the tired Alameda County Democratic Party.
    Same folks that gave us Nadia Lockyer, to
    honor Bill. Same folks who have kept silent
    in the face of Hayashi's felony arrest and lame excuses for her crime. (heck, I'll bet a bunch of them will even support her should she run for Dist. 2 Supervisor).
    The party just loses it purpose supporting and backing up these embarassments. Now Pete has become embarassing.
    Not saying Stark won't win, its just that we could of had someone so much better had he
    done the right thing and retired.


  7. I want to hire 8:51


  8. 8:51 PM to 8:42 AM

    If you've got a position, or friend with a position, I'm available.


  9. 8.15 – explain why you think Khanna is the big winner – very interesting point – thanks


  10. 12:12, I think you mean 8:51, not 8:15

    Khanna is the big winner because Stark heads into November as the overwhelming favorite to gain one more 2 year term.

    After his troubling early campaign blunders, Stark, for the first time, realizes he ain't God.

    As such and because of health, it is highly likely that he won't run again in 2014. (perhaps they even made a deal)
    That leaves Ro Khanna as the most highly financed and “chosen' candidate in the 2014 field.
    Sure, Corbett will probably run, but when you look at the folks who have already contributed to Khanna, plus those who like him (Pelosi etc), and add to that the trendy TECH crowd, you have a combination as the “chosen one”.

    This entire plan could still be completely derailed if Swalwell was to prevail. That could happen, but only if Stark implodes over the next 5 months.

    However, Ro Khanna isn't a natural. He is OK, but not the big smiling type like Bill Clinton.
    In some ways, Corbett has a bigger smile and could still pull off the “hometown girl” image, making Khanna seem like the outside “tech-technocrat”, who had to change his address from Fremont to the new district.

    Interestingly, in 2014, they would have to run against each other twice with the top two system.
    Spending enough in the primary to “save face” but knowing the real race is in November. Lots and lots of money required. Advantage Ro.
    He'll have over 2.0 million by then and probably 1 to 2 more million on tap if needed.
    Additionally, this new district may fit him better than a traditional East Bay Democrat such as

    So if Pete gets over 50% today then November is a cinch, -> Ro Khanna wins in 2014.

    Ro played the odds. If he had run against Pete this year, he had a 50/50 chance to win and after a bruising narrow loss, he may not have been well liked in 2014.
    So his calculation was a 50/50 proposition.
    By not running he saw a 90% chance Pete would win in November and 75% chance Ro could win in 2014.
    You can be certain, Ro will be campaigning over the next 29 months.

    11:00 PM tonight, Ro will be sipping champagne.
    Pete will have already been in bed for a hour.


  11. Thanks – appreciate the analysis (yes, i screwed up the time – I am absolutely dead on my feet but actually sorry the primary is over.)


  12. Brilliant analysis. And Ro actually lives in the new district and is building a lot of ties. Corbett is in San leandro which is in Barbara lee district. She'd be smart to wait for Barbara lee to retire (2016) which is a much better ideological fit for her and where she lives. Instead she'll likely try carpetbagging into the new district and probably will end her political career. Agree Ro is not a natural. But anyone with half a brain will see that he's going to win this seat if Pete wins in 12.


  13. Note– If anyone else is having trouble seeing the right hand side of the above posts, then you might do the following.

    Copy the post and stick it into the “Post a Comment” box below, where you can then read the entire sentences without the right side clipped off.

    Perhaps this is only happening on my computer?


  14. Ooops, let me try that again.

    Note– If anyone else is having trouble
    seeing the right hand side of the
    above posts, then you might do the

    Copy the post and stick it into the
    “Post a Comment” box below, where
    you can then read the entire sentences
    without the right side clipped off.

    Perhaps this is only happening on
    my computer?


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