Eric Swalwell has at least one advantage in talking about the need for fresh ideas and energy in Congress: He wasn't even a glimmer in his parents' eyes when the congressman he's challenging took office.
Swalwell, 30, an Alameda County deputy district attorney and Dublin City Council member, announced Wednesday he will run against 20-term incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District. Speaking to more than 50 friends, relatives and supporters, the Democrat said local residents are fed up with "a do-nothing, business-as-usual Congress."
"I freely admit I do not have much experience in Washington. Some people see that as a weakness; I believe it's my greatest strength," he said. "If you are happy with the way things are going in Washington, I'm not your man."
He's banking on being the man for his time and place. Polls show Californians have record low opinions of Congress, and the new district is vastly different from Stark's existing district. The new district boundaries lose much of Fremont and all of Alameda while adding Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon and Castro Valley. Also, June's primary will be the first regular election using the "top two" system, in which candidates of all parties compete on the same ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.
"This district deserves a leader who understands its issues" -- someone who attended its schools, drives its roads and patronizes its businesses, Swalwell said, a dig at Stark, who has taken heat for spending most of his time at his Maryland home. "I will never forget where I came from."
Stark, 79, first was elected to Congress in 1972; he's the fifth most senior House member and dean of the California delegation. He announced his candidacy for a 21st term Aug. 2, saying he looks forward to continuing to serve old constituents while gaining new ones.
"He (Swalwell) called me some time ago and said he was thinking about it, and I told him then I hoped that he wouldn't," Stark said. "I think I'll beat him handily. As far as I know, I have most of the Democratic endorsements, for how much that helps, and I guess he'll have to raise a lot of money. And my guess is that if he gets in the race, a lot of people will get in the race, which helps me and makes his job even tougher."
Swalwell said he's "not running against anyone" but rather for "principles that politicians lose sight of when they serve for too long."
He called himself "a proud Democrat ... who will work with anyone who has good ideas and is willing to work with me to solve our problems."
Foremost among those problems is joblessness, he said; the unemployment line "is single-file only and draws no distinction among parties." Congress should take a page from cities, such as Dublin, where officials cooperate to attract new businesses and nurture existing ones while ensuring good wages for workers.
Swalwell was elected to the Dublin City Council in November; before that, he served on the city's planning commission since 2008. He graduated from Dublin High School in 1999 and holds a bachelor's degree in government and politics and a law degree, both from the University of Maryland. While at Maryland, he served as the College Park City Council's student representative and from 2001-02 as an intern in the office of then-Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo.
Among those endorsing Swalwell are Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, who was Swalwell's high school economics teacher.
State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, this month filed papers to start fundraising in the new 15th District as well, but sources say she won't run until her state Senate term expires in 2014, at the earliest.