Rep. Eric Swalwell’s ambitions have always run high beginning with his upset of Pete Stark six years ago. With Swalwell’s presidential aspirations building for months, even years, he told the Washington Post Friday that he will not seek re-election to his East Bay congressional seat if he indeed announces a run for president in 2020.
In recent weeks, as the early field of Democratic presidential primary candidates begin to build, Swalwell has continued to suggest he is on a course to eventually announce a run for president. Swalwell already has staff working in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has visited both early battleground states often. Next month, Swalwell will begin making forays into South Carolina, an early primary most Democrats believe will test the viability of Democratic candidates among African-Americans.
There has been confusion within East Bay political circles whether Swalwell could concurrently run for president and Congress. There is also concern what Swalwell’s potential departure from CA-15 might mean for the political scene in Southern Alameda County and the Tri-Valley. The congressional district is acutely thin when it comes to credible contenders for Swalwell’s seat, if left vacant.
Part of Swalwell’s dillemma started when the state announced it would move its presidential primary from the first Tuesday in June to March in 2020. The state constitution is not entirely clear about whether he could run in both federal races, but the sentiment is tacitly yes. But while legal, the optics of running for two seats is not likely appealing to voters, suggesting the candidate lacks confidence in his presidential chances.
“I’m not hedging; I don’t want to be perceived as hedging and trying to play up something else. I think you have to firmly have both feet in one lane,” Swalwell told The Post.
The previous June primary schedule would have given Swalwell a far greater array of options when it came to running for both offices. Since the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary typically occur in January and early February, Swalwell could have fully participated in the presidential primary process and tested the waters for months. If the campaign caught fire or fizzled out early, Swalwell would have had until 88 days before the June primary to decide whether to switch gears and run a campaign to retain his seat in CA-15.