Wahab suspends campaign for Congress against Swalwell

Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab and Rep. Eric Swalwell

Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab is not ending her campaign for Rep. Eric Swalwell’s seat in the 15th District, but suspending it, she announced Monday morning.

Wahab gave no indication why she chose the less definitive description for ceasing the campaign’s operations other than focusing on her advocacy on the Hayward City Council and elsewhere.

“I am so humbled by the incredible support that I have received from this community for my campaign for Congress. While today marks the suspension of my campaign for Congress, it does not end my fight to make real change happen for this community. When I announced, I saw an immediate outpouring of support from this community who are frustrated and upset by the lack of action from those in power, but are silenced by fear,” Wahab wrote in an email to her supporters.

“I may be suspending this campaign, but I will continue to be a vigilant voice for every member of my community through my work on the Hayward City Council. The fight for affordable housing, fair wages and access to economic opportunity is critical and I will continue to speak up and speak out where change is necessary.”

As a first-term councilmember, Wahab made a quick splash in the city’s local politics by tapping into a progressive consciousness that had not been served by Hayward elected officials in decades.

Her entrance into congressional politics came only after Swalwell announced his run for presidential last April. At the same time, Swalwell suggested early on that he would not seek re-election to his seat, therefore, leaving it open.

Wahab announced her candidacy for Swalwell’s seat four days later, but Swalwell soon hedged on whether he would eventually rejoin the race in 15th District, telling reporters on numerous occassions that he had until December to make a decision before the filing deadline for the March 2020 primary. Swalwell ended his campaign for president on July 8.

The possibility of Swalwell being primaried by a candidate from the left had appeared to raise concerns in his camp that were displayed in subtle ways. Swalwell’s announcement ending his presidential campaign came far earlier than most expected–almost exactly three months after it began–and followed polling done by his campaign that included results that revelead some underlining concerns about his strength in the Tri-Valley, Hayward, and Fremont district.

His campaign also sent a mailer to district voters last week reminding voters of his accomplishments over the years, but also highlighted Muslims in his district. Wahab is the nation’s first-ever Afghan-American elected official.

Particularly in the moderate Tri-Valley, Swalwell’s support among moderates has softened due to what they perceive as his incessant touting of the Democratic party line when it comes to President Trump over the past two years or more.

There were also signs of disenchantment with Swalwell elsewhere. Numerous East Bay political insiders were surprised when elected officials who endorsed Wahab’s campaign never withdrew their support after Swalwell re-entered the race.

They include Bay Area Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Ash Kalra; state Treasurer Fiona Ma; BART Board Director Lateefah Simon; and Tri-Valley elected officials, Dublin Councilmember Shawn Kumagai and Livermore Councilmember Trish Munro.

Wicks’ steadfast support of Wahab’s campaign is even more surprising since her 15th Assembly District local director, Dean Wallace, once served in the same capacity for Swalwell.

Money is likely an issue that factored heavily into Wahab’s decision. Her campaign raised $56,000 over a roughly three-month span last spring and reported $40,000 in cash reserves, according to mid-year finance reports released earlier this month. Swalwell, meanwhile, reported over $2 million in combined reserves that include his congressional and presidential accounts.

With Wahab’s exit the electoral outlook in the 15th District for the March primary is expected to return to a standard profile for any incumbent Democratic congressmember in a blue district. One that primarly includes an underfunded Republican challenger or two.