Rep. Keith Ellison

ELECTION 2014 | CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Hoping to burnish his progressive credentials in advance of the June primary, Rep. Eric Swalwell received the endorsement of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, one of the most progressive members of Congress.

“Congressman Swalwell is willing to take stands for what is right–whether it’s protecting Social Security for all Americans by rejecting harmful benefit cuts, or calling out hatred by condemning the actions of Tea Partiers waving the Confederate flag in front of the White House,” said Ellison.

The outspoken Ellison, however, was not always in Swalwell’s corner. When an East Bay Citizen reporter questioned Ellison, the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, last March at a fundraising event in Oakland, he seriously questioned Swalwell’s liberal ideology and registered lament for the defeat of Pete Stark.

“We will lean on him to do progressive stuff and make him declare to be on our side,” Ellison told The Citizen. Specifically, Ellison said, if Swalwell “doesn’t play well with the progressives” he would be open to replacing him.

A few days later, Ellison’s office scrambled to diffuse the comments threatening Swalwell’s re-election in 2014. “Eric is a friend, and neither the Progressive Action PAC nor I support a challenge to Rep. Swalwell,” said Ellison. “In fact, the Progressive Action PAC seeks to elect more Democrats to Congress and does not target incumbents. I called Eric this morning to set the record straight and I look forward to continuing to work with him this Congress.”

However, even during the subsequent conversation with Ellison’s staff following the clarification, they privately maintained skepticism over whether Swalwell’s moderate political ideology was a hindrance to their progressive causes.

With Ellison’s endorsement Tuesday afternoon, the rare moment of political honesty is again a topic as Swalwell faces an intraparty challenge from the more progressive State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.