Tea Partiers for Stark, Neocons for Swalwell?
If you want to find out how topsy-turvy American politics really are, you can’t do better than to look at the race for California’s 15th Congressional district.
Pete Stark, easily the most colorful, outspoken and liberal member of Congress and its only atheist, is facing his first real challenger in 39 years: Eric Swalwell, a Dublin councilman and prosecutor. Swalwell is your all-American guy – he even looks like a Ken Doll – and is currently selling himself as a moderate Democrat.
Chris Pareja ran against both of them in the June Primary. This time he did it as an “independent”, but in 2010 he ran against Stark as a write-in Tea Party Candidate, after losing the Republican primary.
Conventional wisdom was that Pareja would endorse Swalwell as he’s by far the more conservative candidate. However, Pareja is one of those rare candidates who run because they believe in greater principles of government – and for Pareja those include a distaste for government corruption and a respect to civil liberties and property rights. Unfortunately, given our “pay to play” system of government, there are few politicians on either party that fit into this mold. Stark does, but only because he’s been in Congress so long and his seat has been so secure that he hasn’t had to worry about fundraising.
So Pareja took the probably unprecedented step of issuing a press release anti-endorsing Swalwell. Among his reasons, he cites Swalwell’s lack of “life experience and character to effectively represent this district” and worries “about his positions on property rights and individual liberties.” While he disagrees with Stark on most issues and is not endorsing him, Pareja offers his respect for Stark’s “service to the community and the country”. He discourages his followers from voting for Swalwell calling him “more dangerous to the future of the country.”
A cynic could also point out that a Swalwell win wouldn’t be particularly beneficial for Pareja. As things stand now, Stark is likely to retire after this term, leaving an empty seat for the 2014 election – and an open opportunity for Pareja. Pareja did surprisingly well at the polls this June – getting almost 22% of the vote. Numbers like those will not only raise his profile with voters, but catch the attention of potential financial supporters. The right tilt towards libertarian politics, for example, could bring in Silicon Valley money. If he’s done this well with no money – just think about how well he can do with a little bit of it.
The 2014 field, moreover, is likely to be crowded with Democratic candidates. Ro Khanna, a former Commerce Department official, and California Senator Ellen Corbett have both made it clear they’ll run. But they won’t be the only strong candidates. Look for Union City Mayor Mark Green to jump into the race, as well as former Assembly member Alberto Torrico and even embattled, but shameless, Assembly Member Mary “My Brain Tumor Made Me Do It” Hayashi. The lack of term limits in Congress and the firm Democratic bent of the district make it likely that this seat will not open up again for at least a couple of decades – so also look for multiple lesser known politicians to throw their hats into the race. A plethora of Democratic candidates in the June primary would give Pareja a good shot at making it to the November elections.
Republican neocons, howevers, may not be willing to take those chances. Word in Democratic circles is that American Crossroads or a similar group will be emptying their piggy banks in support of Swalwell. Of course, as we say in Spanish, “del dicho al hecho hay mucho trecho,” so we’ll have to wait and see if that’s true
So what we have is a Tea Partier passively endorsing the most liberal member of Congress, while neocons look to party with a moderate Democrat. Aren’t politics divine?
In reality, Pareja’s anti-endorsement is not meant to lead any of his supporters to vote for Stark, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing so (unless they really want to make sure to give Pareja a shot in 2014) – but any vote he takes away from Swalwell should help Stark win. Personally, I can only hope this will just give Republicans one less reason to go to the polls at all.