Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

CONGRESS | Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison told attendees at a fundraiser in Oakland this past Saturday he and other progressives will be surveying California to potentially fund candidates or incumbents via the Progressive Action PAC to help bolster Democrat’s numbers in 2014. Swalwell will likely be pushed by Progressives to join them and if he does not he may face opposition in the liberal wing of his own party to replace him.

Swalwell’s victory last November cost the Progressive Caucus a staunch liberal in Pete Stark, and Ellison hopes to fill the lost seat with another one. “We will lean on him [Swalwell] to do progressive stuff and make him declare to be on our side,” Ellison told The Citizen, but added that if Swalwell doesn’t play well with the progressives then he is open to replacing him. Ellison said he didn’t have anyone in mind that he would like to see run against Swalwell but Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will be Swalwell’s likely challenger in 2014. Furthermore, no specifics were given about who the Progressives would support for Congress in California. In addition, Republican House seats in California and abroad will be prime targets for Progressives, said Ellison. Half of the House seats lost by the GOP majority last year came in California.

Ellison is the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus and local Rep. Barbara Lee, is the caucus’s whip. In addition, South Bay Progressive Rep. Mike Honda, who may be facing a younger re-election challenger in Ro Khanna in 2014, is the vice chair.

Rep. Eric Swalwell

But between the two staunch East Bay progressives lies freshman Swalwell, who thus far has not joined the progressive caucus and whose stances on issues reflect a moderate blue dog. Swalwell was backed by former Blue Dog Caucus member and former Rep. Ellen Tauscher. Shortly after, Tauscher’s congressional ally, Rep. Steny Hoyer, appointed Swalwell as an assistant whip. Hoyer and his congressional allies have been known to split with Progressives on entitlement cuts. While Hoyer has been willing to leave entitlement cuts on the table, like Social Security and Medicare, Progressive Caucus members like Lee and Ellison have pledged to never back such cuts.

Most of the fundraiser event was Ellison discussing progressive politics, the importance of grassroots organization and his history as a young American disillusioned with politics until he came to believe that change could be made through public service. Ellison was the first Muslim to be elected to office in 2006 and his district borders with Rep. Michele Bachman’s district who falsely linked Ellison to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ellison also won plaudits from Progressives two weeks ago while appearing on Fox News commentator Sean Hannity’s show, when he called the host, “the worst excuse for a journalist I’ve ever seen.”

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.