Primary Questions: CA-15 Preview

Rep. Eric Swalwell, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Hugh Bussell.

THE CANDIDATES All you really know about Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first 18 months in Congress is he has compiled 350,000 frequent flier miles traveling from the East Bay to Washington, D.C. The slow pace of plate tectonics on Earth assures us long-distance travel for any congress member from the 15th District will continue to be the norm. In the meantime, Swalwell has passed one bill while office, a piece of legislation allowing charitable contributions to the Filipino typhoon disaster to be included on last year tax returns..This year, though, Swalwell is no longer the hunter, but the hunted. State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is one of the East Bay’s most experienced legislators and not prone to the same carelessness that seemed to shadow Pete Stark two years ago. While in the Assembly and State Senate, Corbett has been a strong backer of labor and can be credited as being on the short list of public officials who saved San Leandro Hospital from closure last year…Hugh Bussell, the co-chair of the Alameda County Republican Party is a first-time candidate from Livermore, who was a high school teacher before his current occupation as a software consultant. The lone Republican candidate won almost 22 percent of the vote in this race last time around and played a large role in shrinking Stark’s primary numbers and eventually allowing Swalwell to overtake him in the November election.

MAIN BEEF Before a pair of controversial mailers hit mail boxes recently, this race was actually all about Swalwell’s short record in Congress. Corbett has hit Swalwell on his vote last year allowing the government to spy on personal web histories, along with attacks on his vote last December that failed to extend unemployment benefits to over 1.3 million Americans. In both cases, Swalwell reversed course. Both examples intend to label Swalwell as not progressive enough for the district. Swalwell, meanwhile, appears to be using the same playbook that allowed him to upset Stark in 2012. A widely-seen television commercial and mailer using a game board motif attempts to paint Corbett as a politician living well on the taxpayers’ dime and without doing the requisite work. Swalwell used the same strategy against the 80-year-old Stark. The television spot though features a host of insinuations with footnotes leading to nothing. Similarly, Corbett’s mailer last week features a check box suggesting Swalwell voted for the conservative Rep. Paul Ryan budget deal last year.

QUOTABLE “Does Washington really need more lawyers?” said Hugh Bussell in April about the occupations of both his primary opponents.

BY THE NUMBERS Voter Registration: Democratic 48.2%; No Party Preference 20.9%; Republican 21.8%

Campaign Finance, thorough May 17: Swalwell $696,000; Corbett $116,000; Bussell $3,200.

2012 Primary Result: Pete Stark (D) 42.1%; Eric Swalwell (D) 36.2%; Chris Pareja (R) 21.7%.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH 1. Swalwell 2. Corbett 3. Bussell.

ON TO NOVEMBER Despite the misleading mailers, this congressional race has the potential to be all about the issues, a potential breath of fresh air following the vicious 10th State Senate race being fought in relatively the same area. Focusing on Swalwell’s thin legislative record through the lens of the most derelict Congress in American history is a positive for Corbett. Moreover, she has a 14-year career in Sacramento that can be mined for good use by the Swalwell campaign. They already attempting to link her to the three members of the State Senate involved in criminal action. Nevertheless, Corbett is going to need a big break to pull off the upset in November. The big legislative fumble on Swalwell’s record involves NSA spying. If Edward Snowden has another shoe to drop on the subject, it could reflect badly on Swalwell. Government overreach when it comes to privacy is an issue passionately followed by all segments of the political spectrum and Swalwell doesn’t have a good answer for that vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) in April 2013.

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