Risks Of Kids In Campaign Discourse; Swalwell’s Moneyball Run For Congress

ELECTION ’12//CONGRESS 15 | Purposefully involving your opponent’s young children into the political debate is always very risky proposition. On the same day the San Francisco Chronicle portrayed Rep. Pete Stark correctly as a congressman of some type of historical importance, in addition, to a propensity for Steve Jobsian outbursts, the same reporter, so to speak, went there. That there is attacking the three youngest of the Stark brood.

Carolyn Lochhead’s posting on SFGate revealing Stark’s 16-year-old son and 10-year-old twins receive Social Security benefits. Nothing illegal was asserted, but an allusion was made to Stark being worth—at least–$27 million. That figure comes from the Web site OpenSecrets.org and is a somewhat imprecise number from 2010 ranging between $19 million and $27 million and including an unspecified $11 million loss in 2009.

Nevertheless, going after kids is a big no-no and either floated to bait the anger of Stark or the beginnings of a campaign to portray him as economically out of touch with regular voters in his district—or both. However, if Stark was to have said such instances were inappropriate, then, of course, the story is legitimate and sadly the children collateral damage, but that isn’t the case here.

It’s a sophisticated and dirty move which has already raised the ire of some local Democratic Party operatives who know Stark’s children with his wife, Deborah Stark, as three polite and adorable kids. Fish Stark, the son who infamously was tabbed as his father’s top campaign researcher, appears to show genuine interests in what his dad does for a living, while the twins can often be seen calmly sitting among the crowd at town hall meetings in the area. At the same gatherings, the 10-year-boy often shouts out numbers used to randomly call on constituents to ask the congressman questions.

One high-profile East Bay Democrats this weekend went so far as to speculate whether this new low from the Chronicle is more than just coincidence coming a few days after Swalwell kissed the ring of “The Don” Perata. The blowback may include renewed efforts to illustrate the differences between between the family man Stark and the youthful bachelor Swalwell and whether one portrait resonates better with voters, many of whom are greatly struggling in this stubbornly poor economy.

STARK INSIGHTS Fortney ‘Pete’ Stark Jr. sits on a wicker chair next to a sizzling fire, his crossed feet propped up on an ottoman. Clad seriously but casually in loafers, a plaid cotton shirt and corduroy pants, he scans The Washington Post, his trifocals resting up on the bridge of his nose. As he reads the headlines out loud to himself, he accompanies them with ‘mm-hmm’s and nods or strings of unprintable words, depending on the news. Beside him rests some Sonoma County white wine in a clear plastic glass, his chief vice, excluding Diet Coke,” writes Fish Stark, the 16-year-old son of the embattled congressman writing about his famous father. Not bad at all for someone, according to the date on the teen Web site, couldn’t have been pushing 15.

The lengthy profile is important nevertheless and gives an intimate portrait of a political figure, who despite 40 years in Congress, very little is known about. I must admit cracking through to the real Stark is extremely difficult. He can be ruthlessly offensive to some and positively self-effacing in public. His beguiling personality might make him a great politician, but it also makes for a positively hopeless endeavor to pinpoint out what exactly makes him tick. However, the budding wordsmith offers these insights into his father, including Stark calling his ancestors “cowards” for dodging military services going all the way back to the late-19th Century and that Stark suffered nerve damage to his leg which now requires the use of his now-ubiquitous walking cane.

SWALWELL’S MONEYBALL CAMPAIGN Nobody it seems, other than The Citizen, seems to want to write about Eric Swalwell. If anybody was paying attention they would find perhaps find an underdog story of Hollywood proportions. In many ways, Swalwell’s rag-tag operation is astonishingly similar to the concepts behind Billy Beane’s Moneyball blueprint for manipulating inefficiencies and making the most with very little money.

Swalwell has always been playing catch-up when it comes to fundraising. It’s a major reason why he was forced to become beholden to rich land developers already crawling around the Tri-Valley. But, that hasn’t been enough to close the gap between his treasury and Stark’s, according to the most recent campaign finance reports showing him almost exactly $300,000 behind.

In the meantime, among local consultants and party loyalists, there has been some chuckling over Swalwell’s virtually running a campaign more dignified for running for city council than for a seat in Congress. If there’s a farmer’s market in the 15th District, Swalwell is there with his band of political misfits. Swalwell’s campaign manager is an unknown named T.J. Daly whose strategy thus far has been to wait for Stark to commit unforced errors while hoping his own walks straight down Vanilla Road. Don’t laugh because the plan so far has worked like a charm. The rest of the crew includes a dreadlocked, bearded information man and loads of high school volunteers. The last being of note since most congressional campaigns prefer college-age interns. While the group may be genuinely excited about Swalwell, they may actually be more interested in receiving credit for community service hours required for graduation from high school.

To take the Moneyball analogy further, recall the movie version ends with a dramatic home run that extended the A’s winning streak to 20 games. However, the 2002 season actually ended with a thud after another crushing loss to the unheralded Minnesota Twins in the Division Series. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with rooting for the underdog and Swalwell’s campaign lives and breathes it.

STARK’S ATTACK DOG Sharon Cornu has certainly put some bite in Stark’s campaign since taking over two months ago from San Francisco consultant Alex Tourk. Check out her lengthy quote in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the issue of Social Security payments for Stark’s children. Note two references to the “young Swalwell” combined with a double dose of linkage to the Republican Party.

“The very premise of Social Security is that all Americans pay into it and all Americans benefit from it. If young Eric Swalwell wants to join the Ryan-Romney plan to undermine Social Security as we know it, it just shows he is not a true blue Democrat. Congressman Pete Stark has spent a lifetime protecting the rights of seniors and fighting to make Social Security stronger so it is able to deliver on its promise to all Americans.Before young Swalwell opens the door to changes in Social Security that Republicans would love to make, he should have done his homework.”

21 thoughts on “Risks Of Kids In Campaign Discourse; Swalwell’s Moneyball Run For Congress

  1. 12:05,

    Social Security is not welfare.

    Still can't come up with a reason people should vote for Swalwell, huh? What would he do, other than cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits? We know he'd do that- he says so proudly on his website. We also know that Stark wouldn't vote to cut these benefits we've paid into our whole lives.


  2. Stark is a scumbag. Taking an extra welfare check. What a fool. And for Tavares to support and defend him makes him even more of a clown.


  3. 8:49 it is insensitive to use the word “retard”. I say this to remind all Democrats that we are the party of tolerance and acceptance. So quit using the word retard you mentally challenged individual.


  4. goes to show you swalwell does not understand social security-before commenting, he should have studied, figure out how it works and go from there-kids are entitled to social security as the stark children are and to means test social security ins not a good idea-my advise to swalwell is to stay where he is, learn about government and then get into polictics-tony santos


  5. You get one shot to impugn upon my work on my own site and this is it. I appreciate adding the site's web site whenever launching your attack, just as I requested. If money was being funnelled to me, the way I would go about it is probably by forming a PAC and moving the money around so nobody could figure out where it came from. The accusation is interesting. So, Pete Stark is funding an operation to also write hard-hitting pieces against Mary Hayashi, Joel Young, Jesus Armas, Maribel Heredia, the entire Hayward School District, Nadia Lockyer, Bill Lockyer AND the Bay Area News Group.

    And for all that, I have $200 in the bank?

    If anything, Stark's “talking points” come from my suggestions 2-3 months ago. Maybe I'm in the wrong business. I should become a political consultant and charge unsuspecting candidates thousands of dollars for shit anybody can figure out.


  6. 8:33, re-EBCitizen “but factual and objective-it is not”

    Oh, you mean it falls into the same class as, for example, the New York Times does on a whole host of issues. Or the SF Chronicle or the Nation magazine, or a bunch of other “real” news sources.

    Steven Tavares does a excellent job of bringing out issues and newsworthy happenings, often days before the “real” newspapers catch up to the facts.
    Frequently covering items the newpapers don't deem proper to discuss. Clearly on many of those issues, the public is very interested in discussing them.

    If you don't disagree with his coverage of a few items, then something is wrong with you.
    That is as it should be.
    He creates a space where folks can discuss issues without having someone editing every fourth comment.


  7. The only thing Steve Tavares does is take talking points from his high school classmate and friend, Jason Teramoto, who is an Aide to Congressman Pete Stark. The fact that for two years his only advertiser on EBCitizen website was his other buddy’s, Big Shot Nick, travel agency for Disney trips – makes you wonder how does Steve make a living writing talking points? Is he getting paid by the campaigns or the campaign’s attorneys (so it is not reportable)? Even Big Shot Nick stopped advertising! Steve rags on Bay Area News Group for a failed business model – Steve what is your business model?

    I’m not saying this type of website isn’t desired or entertaining – it clearly is – but factual and objective – it is not!


  8. torrico isn't running…

    or did that point elude you completely?

    next time try to argue a relevant point within the context of the race.

    MW – just because someone tells you to stop posting your drivel should be taken as suppressing free speech. it's keeping the internet free of idiotic thought.


  9. 8:46 pm, well said. You make a good point:

    “Anyone with kids (myself included) will tell you that politics or not, the minute one side brings the kids into it – they've already lost.”

    Now you can see why we are all mortified that Pete Stark brought up Torrico's kids, when he simply called as a courtesy to tell Pete he was going to endorse his opponent.

    Pete lost my vote the moment he did that. Just because someone chooses not to support or endorse you, doesn't mean you get to question their faith, their family, the kids and parenting skills.

    Pete is an embarrassment to all of us who have stood by him through the decades.


  10. By MW:

    As “evidence” of my “stupidity,” I just noticed that in the second paragraph of the above post I missed one of the s's in “glasses.”

    But as I commented, altho I know how to spell I am a horrible typist, and since I am also well past my teens I also need to get a pair of reading glasses so as to properly proofread.


  11. By MW:

    To 8:49PM,

    Since you are such a “genius,” why don't you clearly indicate and emphasize which words I supposedly spelled incorrectly.

    And if you do once in awhile, and even with your peabrain, actually sometimes manage to find a word that I did not spell correctly, well over ninety five percent of the time it would be due to the fact that I am a horrible typist and aIso should get a pair of reading glases, since, and regardless of any faults I may possibly have, I am an excellent speller, and as evidenced by the spelling bees I used to regularly place high in and often take first place in.

    In fact, I cannot recall even one spelling bee, and even including an all school spelling bee, that I ever finished worse than second in.

    However you do appear to be a modern style “liberal,” in other words someone who believes in an “improved” version of “free speech,” in other words denying free speech to those whose opinions are contrary to those of yourself and your fellow mental retards.

    And why do you want me to go away? In other words, are you afraid that someone expressing opinions contrary to yours will expose you for the phony that you are!!!


  12. Tavres, you idiot. Stop writing about falsehood. Eric didn't attack Starks kids. He didn't make his kids look bad. In fact you know nothing reporter, it was Phil Matier that broke the story dumbass. You have an issue take it up with him. If anyone threatend anyone's kids it was Stark threatening Alberto's kids when he said eh would have CPS go to his house. Try reporting the truth for once, instead of what you wish the truth was you half wit.


  13. 8:52, Oh I agree, but from what I know there doesn't need to be any reason for him to get the money. He just has to be a certain age and have minor children. He may also have a disability, but that doesn't remove the general idea that Pete and his wife are both fully employed and have substantial income.

    Again I'm certainly not saying he has done anything other than follow the rules, I just think lots of folks are going to be very surprised that the rules would allow someone like him to collect that extra money.
    Meaning a fully employed, highly paid, father.


  14. At 8:02 this quote may explain why he receives Social Security. “Stark suffered nerve damage to his leg which now requires the use of his now-ubiquitous walking cane.”


  15. MW, were you going to finish that thought?

    “So even if it is legal for Stark, and who is a multi millionaire, to be collecting Social Security for his young children, it is still sleazy, and I do not want a sleazeball to be representing me in Congress, AND even if he is a world class demagogue, phony, hypocrite, and good little pseudo liberal, in other words fairly typical of the higher ranking members of the Democratic Party.”

    “AND”… what?

    I'm not about to call you a retard because you can't spell, but rather because you can't seem to complete a coherent thought.

    you're a retard. go away.


  16. Leave it to the swalwell campers to jump on every post that tavares puts up about this race.

    The Swalwell campaign overplayed it's hand on this one. They just don't know it yet. Anyone with kids (myself included) will tell you that politics or not, the minute one side brings the kids into it – they've already lost. The first poster (or poser) might be Eric trying to back away from it and do damage control. Too late.

    Steve nailed it though in seeing that the media has been incredibly arrogant and flippant about reporting the facts about the race . It's just waiting for another “gotcha” moment from Pete rather than looking at Swalwell for what he really is. Steve gets it, why basic common sense continues to elude the four of you imbeciles is anyone's guess.


  17. By MW:

    So even if it is legal for Stark, and who is a multi millionaire, to be collecting Social Security for his young children, it is still sleazy, and I do not want a sleazeball to be representing me in Congress, and even if he is a world class demagogue, phony, hypocrite, and good little pseudo liberal, in other words fairly typical of the higher ranking members of the Democratic Party.


  18. 7:53 I agree with you. If Stark's team tries to turn this against Swalwell by saying he is attacking the kids, they'll only highlight the issue in voters minds. Most common sense voters will be asking the same question. He isn't disabled, retired, or dead, or poor, why is he getting money for the kids?
    Neither will they overlook the fact that the children's mother is highly educated and also works.


  19. This story is not about Stark's kids. It why he is taking social security when he is not diabled, retired or dead. Also, I bet Bill Lockyer is doing the same thing. They both make $150,000 in a government salary and should not be taking social security money. It should be called Viagra loophole. In the past, men who are 70+ never would have kids younger than 18.


  20. I read the Cornu statement and got a entirely different take. To me, Cornu was so obvious in her double use of “young Eric Swalwell” that I'm sure half the readers will see it as talking-down to them.
    Also they might think about age and come away thinking about “old Pete Stark”. Very dangerous for Pete or his campaign to raise the age issue.

    Especially following the prior paragraphs where rightly or wrongly Pete looks very bad in taking the extra money for the children. Of course it is legal, but everyone reading that goes “WHAT?, you can have a couple fully employed, making well over $200,000 a year and that family STILL gets an extra $600 or a $1,000 each month for the kids?
    Most readers will not take this as an attack on the children at all, but rather exposing something they were unaware of.
    To take the view of “local Democratic Party operatives”, with their built in bias, as representative of the general public is missing the mark.
    As long as Swalwell doesn't over-play this item, he will have gained another instance where Pete is seen as out of touch with the average family.
    All these items are begining to fit a theme, a pattern, and reinforcing the view that Pete is no longer in touch.

    Now, if Pete could personally come out with strong statements and be out front, he might turn this impression around. But if his only answer is to send out some professional campaign manager, I'm afraid that too plays into the growing impression the public is getting. BTW, Cornu is not good in front of a camera.

    Pete's campaign needs a strong “Pete” and for that to happen he has to risk appearing in public.
    If he hides between now and November this could be very close. Thus far it seems Pete has been going downhill since February.
    No longer seems a lock.


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