Anyone looking to mentor young and promising would-be legislators will find few students more inspirational than Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell.
Earlier this month, the 32-year-old Dublin councilman and prosecutor toppled 20-term Rep. Pete Stark, California's longest serving Democrat in the House of Representatives.
Swalwell undeniably benefitted from electoral reforms, an ill-mannered incumbent and a dearth of other viable challengers. (More on this later.)
Then there is Tim Sbranti, Swalwell's high school economics teacher and Dublin's re-elected mayor.
Unlike the typical "how my high school teacher inspired me" story, Sbranti didn't stop once his young protégé graduated.
After Swalwell went off to college, Sbranti helped line up summer campaign assignments back home for Swalwell.
When the young man finished law school and took a job at the Alameda County District Attorney's Office in 2005, it was Sbranti who persuaded Swalwell to return home.
"My friends who had just been hired in the office -- they called us the 'Baby DAs' -- were living in San Francisco," Swalwell said during a recent short sit-down sandwiched between his interviews with potential staffers and transition teleconferences.
"But Tim really made the case for me to come back to Dublin and serve the community."
Swalwell moved back to his hometown, won an appointment first to the city's Heritage and Arts Commission and then the
It was also Sbranti who took Swalwell's fateful call in July 2011.
At the time, the fledgling councilman was in Washington, D.C., for discussions about city issues with the Bay Area congressional delegation. Swalwell had came away unimpressed with Stark, who had called into the meeting from home.
"Redistricting was going on at the time, and I knew Dublin was going to have Stark as its representative," Swalwell said. "But I came away thinking, 'Is this guy up for the job?' Dublin deserved better.
"I told Tim all of this. I didn't say I was running, but Tim is an astute guy and he asked me, 'Are you thinking about running for Congress?' I said, 'What do you think if I was?' And the rest is history."
Launching a campaign against a veteran congressman in your own party is as popular as a wolf at a sheep convention. Some political consultants and pollsters, fearing retribution, wouldn't even take his calls.
Conversely, Swalwell's candidacy had a lot of plusses. Some he knew and some he could not have predicted.
Among the positives, 60 percent of his potential constituents were new to the redrawn 15th Congressional District. And under the new top-two electoral system, Swalwell would have two bites at the incumbent, first in the primary and again in the general election.
What Swalwell couldn't have counted on was Stark's erratic behavior. Petulant and petty, the incumbent even mistreated the League of Women Voters.
Too, other challengers opted -- unwisely, in retrospect -- to wait until 2014 in the hopes Stark would retire. Among them were Pleasanton Councilwoman Jennifer Hosterman, state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, and former White House commerce official Ro Khanna of Fremont.
Young, handsome, smart and single, Swalwell is already turning heads in Washington -- especially the ladies' -- and some fear the attention will spoil him.
No to worry. His mother is already on top of it.
"If I don't respond to her texts within an hour, she texts me, 'Oh, I guess you've gone all Washington on us, and we're never going to hear from you again,'" said Swalwell, the eldest of Eric N. and Vicky Swalwell's four sons. "She keeps me grounded."
You go, mom.
GOT POLITICS? Read Politics With LisaV at PoliticsWithLisav.blogspot.com.
AND FINALLY: Drat. Another juicy conspiracy theory shot to bytes.
When Contra Costa County blocked employees' access to the conservative leaning HalfwayToConcord blog on its computers, rumors flew about how the county was trying to squash a scandalous story in the works by site owner Bill Gram-Reefer of Pleasant Hill.
Nah. The county's web filter had incorrectly categorized the website as high risk for malware. The site has been restored to the county's good cyber graces.
"I suspect that the fault, if any, is the potentially inaccurate or miscategorization of (HalfwayToConcord) by the McAfee protection system," said Contra Costa information technology chief Ed Woo. "We consider this a false positive."
This begs the question about why public employees are reading nonwork sites at the office.
Lighten up, people. Everyone needs a mental break from the tasks at hand.
So, if you'll excuse me, I have my eye on a pair of red boots at zappos.com ...