Rep. Pete Stark apologized Wednesday for publicly accusing his Democratic challenger, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell, of accepting "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" from developers.

"I misspoke the other evening when I made allegations against my opponent for taking bribes, and for that I apologize," Stark, D-Fremont, said in a statement issued by his campaign strategist, Alex Tourk.

But Stark added that he did "have concerns about my opponent's behavior."

"Eric Swalwell has been a consistent vote on the Dublin City Council and on the Planning Commission supporting projects by developers who have been raided by the FBI, have pleaded guilty to destroying natural habitats, and has taken numerous contributions to fund his campaign which he consistently utilizes with negative attacks."

Stark, 80, said he's committed to "moving forward to stay focused on the issues" and asked Swalwell, a 31-year-old Alameda County prosecutor, to do the same.

Swalwell, who announced Tuesday that he had hired a renowned defamation lawyer to sue Stark if he wouldn't apologize, said Wednesday that Stark didn't "misspeak."

"He flat-out lied to the voters about my voting record and accusing me of a crime," Swalwell said. "And it took a week and mounting public and Democratic Party pressure for him to offer a backhanded, insincere public apology with new bizarre allegations with no evidence.

"His statement does nothing more than trade mudslinging for smear tactics," Swalwell added. "Congressman Stark has lost all credibility, and voters should consider the source: a member of Congress who has issued more public apologies than Lindsay Lohan."


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Swalwell said he's proud that one of the first votes he took on the Dublin City Council was "against a major development project" and that he continues to serve on the Tri-Valley Conservancy's Advisory Council.

Swalwell is fighting an uphill battle against the 40-year incumbent in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District, which includes Hayward, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore, Union City, part of Fremont and unincorporated areas such as Castro Valley, Fairview and San Lorenzo. Campaign finance reports show Swalwell raised $100,930, while Stark raised $60,255 in 2012's first quarter, but Swalwell had far less cash on hand as of March 31 -- $93,311 to Stark's $551,342. Hayward businessman Chris Pareja, a conservative independent, also is in the race.

Stark had leveled the original accusation against Swalwell during an April 10 candidates' forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area at Hayward City Hall. Stark had said Swalwell took "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" from the Lin family -- among Dublin's most prominent real-estate developers -- in exchange for his votes on zoning issues.

"If I were a lawyer, I would call that bribery, but I'm not a lawyer, so I'll let Mr. Swalwell define what he thinks taking all this money from people that he gave special zoning privileges to is," Stark said at the forum. "Maybe it's how he sees his role in government."

At a town hall meeting with constituents Saturday, Stark said evidence to support his accusation could be found in official reports. But neither Swalwell's campaign finance reports filed to the Federal Election Commission nor his personal statements of economic interests filed with city and state offices supported Stark's claim.

At the April 10 forum, Stark also had accused Swalwell of having a spotty voting record. But Alameda County Registrar of Voters records show Swalwell has voted in every election since he returned in 2006 from Maryland, where he had attended college and law school.

Swalwell's campaign is centered on the claim that Stark has been in Washington, D.C., for too long and has lost touch with his constituents.

Josh Richman covers politics. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.