March 16 Update: Ellen Corbett decided not to run for Congress this time around, but both she and Khanna are pushing full speed ahead for their 2014 Congressional ran. Stark has two years notice, he better retire by then. I hope that Stark will take advantage of these last two years to go back to his principled and courageous heydays. Fight the good fights, stand up strongly and loudly for civil liberties and civil rights, and leave his children a name they can be proud of.
Congressman Pete Stark has completed his filings and is now an official candidate for re-election for the United States House of Representatives. He’s running for District 15th, which includes the southern and eastern parts of Alameda county.
Stark has four opponents so far, but none of them stand much of a chance. Eric Swallwell, a prosecutor and Dublin City Council member, is probably the most likely to provide Stark with a challenge. He is also a democrat and has support in his area (which I believe Stark has not represented before). However, he’s relatively unknown and I can’t see him raising enough money (unless he has rich friends). I know nothing about Mark Gonzalez beyond the fact that he is Republican. Chris Pareja ran as the tea party candidate in 2010, but is now positioning himself as an independent. As for the final candidate, Michael David Harris, I have no idea who he is – though he might be a realtor from Livermore, most likely Republican.
The real question, however, is whether State Senator Ellen Corbett, also a Democrat, will enter the race. Corbett, a native San Leandran and former Mayor, has long wanted to run for Congress. Her gamble is whether to do so now, against a well known Democratic incumbent who has been there forever (but who is 80 years old and in bad health), or to wait until 2014, when Stark may retire. While the latter scenario would usually make sense, her declared opponent would be Ro Khanna, a young former Deputy Assistant Secretary at Commerce for the Obama administration. While Khanna has no political experience, he does have a lot of money. He was able to raise raise $1.2M in the last quarter of 2011, mostly from Silicon Valley and the Indian-American community; he got $450K alone at one fundraiser at the home of a venture capitalist. Corbett, on the other hand, is not a particularly great fundraiser. And without money, it’s impossible for any candidate to get their message to the voters.
We will know by Friday if Corbett throws her hat into the ring. My bet is that if she runs, she won’t file until the last possible moment, so as to not give Khanna the opportunity to run as well. Khanna has promised that he wouldn’t run against Stark, but observers believe he’d throw his hat into the race if Corbett wins. I can just envision his spies hanging around the office of the Registrar of voters on Friday, seeing if Ellen or one of her people comes by.
It’s difficult to know how good a chance Corbett has. Stark has a lot of supporters and detractors, both among party operatives and voters – but he’s a sitting duck and as thus probably not worth investing on. My bet is that most people will stay out of the race until they see the June election results.
Because of redistricting, Pete Stark will no longer be representing San Leandro (we get Barbara Lee now!) – but this is still an election worth watching.