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Congressman Pete Stark stops by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union office before volunteers head out to walk precincts in Hayward, Calif., on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. The congressman will be seeking a final term after 40 years in the House. (Anda Chu/Staff)

We said this in the primary election, but it bears repeating: It is time for Pete Stark to leave the U.S. House of Representatives.

Stark should have recognized that on his own, but he did not, so the voters of the 15th Congressional District should help him along.

The Fremont congressman faces his toughest challenge in the 40 years he has served in the House in the person of Eric Swalwell, an Alameda County prosecutor and Dublin city councilman.

Swalwell is an excellent alternative to the 80-year-old Stark, who has demonstrated he is not fit for office by the amazingly reckless manner in which he has conducted his campaign.

He has repeatedly launched unsubstantiated accusations against Swalwell and when those allegations are later shown to be untrue he simply says that he is sorry -- and then launches another false salvo.

It is behavior unbecoming a member of the U.S. House and, let's face it, that is hardly a high bar of ethical behavior.

It is always sad to see someone in the public arena not know when it is time to retire. We see it with athletes all the time.

But Stark is no Michael Jordan or Brett Favre. His recent campaign antics are only a public manifestation of embarrassing loose-cannon behavior that his colleagues in Congress have seen him display for some time.


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It is the kind of behavior that hurts his effectiveness on Capitol Hill. Few of his colleagues will talk about it on the record, but their actions spoke volumes when fellow Democrats were so uncomfortable with him that they ignored his seniority and passed him over for the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

That should tell us all we need to know. Simply put, it is time for Stark to go.

Because of the state's new open primary system, voters in this heavily Democratic and reshaped East Bay congressional district do not have to hold their nose and vote for a Republican just to get rid of Stark.

Indeed, Swalwell is a Democrat who reflects the district's political values and can provide it with fresh and effective representation. He is smart, committed and accessible. He cut his political teeth as an intern to then-Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a moderate who worked effectively with members of both parties.

Swalwell is more centrist than Stark and has a strong interest in governing. We have been impressed with his pragmatism as a city councilman and his restraint in the face of Stark's wild charges.

Most candidates would rightly have become hysterical in the face of such false claims from a sitting member of Congress. But Swalwell has calmly but forcefully refuted each of the charges.

Frankly, it displays a temperament that we wish we saw more often in Congress.

We believe Swalwell is ready for Congress and that he will represent the interests of the district far better than Pete Stark.