Local congressional races, even ones that have garnered national attention like the one here in the 15th Congressional District between Democrats Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell, are a little different.
With less than three weeks left until Election Day, there hasn't been any public polling and neither campaign has released any internal polling. But after speaking with both campaigns, what does seem clear is that after 40 years in Congress Rep. Stark is in a fight for his political life against the 31-year-old Dublin city councilman.
"I see us surging," Swalwell recently said in an interview. "We've received endorsements from the Chronicle, Tri-Valley Times and BANG...I believe the momentum is on our side."
The congressman doesn't lack endorsements either, including the biggest of them all in the Democratic Party — President Barack Obama.
But after decades of having a cakewalk to reelection, the new top-two primary system in California has forced Stark, one of the most liberal members of Congress, to try and win reelection against a fellow Democrat in the general election.
The demographics of the new 15th Congressional District, which goes from San Ramon down to Fremont and east through Livermore, doesn't help Stark either. Though it's a Democratic leaning district, it's not as liberal as Stark's old district that went from Alameda down to Newark.
Swalwell is fairly liberal himself (on policy, the campaigns admit there isn't much of a difference), but with Republican voters in the district stuck voting for a Democrat, the Swalwell campaign hopes they see their candidate as the lesser of two evils.
In the primary election in June, Stark came out ahead with 42.9 percent of the vote to Swalwell's 35.3. But voter turnout was low, and the most conservative candidate in the race, Chris Pareja, won 21.5 percent of the vote.
What voters won't have a chance to see in the final weeks of the campaign is a debate. During the primary campaign, Stark accused Swalwell of taking bribes in a debate, which he later apologized for.
The argument from the Stark campaign is that there was a debate in the spring and there isn't a need for another one now.
"We had debates," said Sharon Cornu, Stark's campaign manager. "Now we're out talking to voters at their door and the congressman is meeting with constituents and has a full schedule."
The Swalwell campaign wants a debate, saying that the previous debates were for the primary — when there were three candidates — and that not having one now is an example of Stark dodging the public.
"His actions in our debates for the primary were outrageous and bizarre," Swalwell said. "He seemed unhinged and it showed his lack of fitness for office and that he's not up for the job."
With 18 days until Election Day, both campaigns say they are focused on talking to as many voters as possible.
"We're working hard and talking to voters every day and the response has been very positive," Cornu said. "Pete Stark is a fighter. He continues to fight to protect medicare, social security, investing in education and rebuilding the middle class."
The Swalwell campaign says they have knocked on 70,000 doors and have volunteers calling voters every day.
Swalwell does see policy differences between him in Stark. Swalwell says he wants to repeal the No Child Left Behind education law (Stark has stated he would amend the law) and will protect funding for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Stark would like to cut military funding).
While Stark's campaign says their candidate has a long track-record of fighting in Washington, Swalwell says Stark is way past his prime.
"He's not up for the job and it's time to move on," Swalwell said. "You have to be connected and on the ground and he's been absent and asleep at the wheel."
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