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California congressman Eric Swalwell joins 2020 Democratic presidential field

Eric Swalwell wants to be president, and why the heck not?
Four-term Bay Area Rep. Eric Swalwell is an underdog in the crowded 2020 Democratic field. He hopes his Iowa roots will help in that early-voting state.
(Alex Edelman / TNS)

Eric Swalwell, a four-term Bay Area congressman who’s grown into a cable TV fixture as a slashing and unremitting critic of President Trump, formally announced Monday his long-shot bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Fittingly, he chose national television as the venue to declare his intent, saying on CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” he would “go big on the issues we take on, be bold in the solutions we offer and do good in the way we govern.”

Swalwell, 38, has essentially been running for president for the better part of the last two years. Still, he will have to work to distinguish himself in a crowded field approaching 20 contestants.

He is neither the youngest candidate nor the only millennial in the Democratic race — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is 37 — and he shares his Northern California political base with Sen. Kamala Harris, a former district attorney across the bay in San Francisco.

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Eric Swalwell wants to be president, and why the heck not? »

His positions on major issues are shared by most other Democrats running, among them support for universal healthcare, higher taxes on the wealthy and a more aggressive federal effort to fight climate change.

One way he plans to stand apart is making gun control a central focus of the campaign, starting with his first appearance as a declared candidate at a town hall Tuesday near Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed last year in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Another distinction is his birthplace, in rural Iowa, where Swalwell lived until age 5, when his family moved to California. The congressman has all but taken up formal residency in the state, which casts the first ballots of the presidential nominating process.

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Much of the rest of his time has been spent on the cable television airwaves, where he regularly criticizes Trump and his associates. A member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Swalwell has repeatedly accused the president of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election, pressing his assertion even after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found no grounds for criminal prosecution.

“I stand by what I said about seeing evidence of collusion,” Swalwell said on MSNBC after Atty. Gen. William Barr issued his four-page summary of Mueller’s report. “If [Trump] has a problem with that, he can sue me. And I promise you I would win in court.”

Swalwell kept up the assault Monday in a video declaring his candidacy. “Donald Trump was bold,” Swalwell said in the two-minute travelogue showcasing his life and career. “But a lot of what he was bold about was bull—.”

Who’s running for president and who’s not »

Swalwell’s pugnacity, which has helped deliver him more than 500,000 Twitter followers, is matched by his personal ambition.

A former Alameda County prosecutor, he was appointed in 2006 to the Heritage & Cultural Arts Commission in Dublin, the East Bay Area suburb where he attended high school, and in 2008 was elevated to the city Planning Commission. Two years after that, he was elected to the City Council.

Then, just a few months into his term, Swalwell launched an insurgent campaign that successfully ousted the dean of California’s congressional delegation, fellow Democrat Pete Stark, after 40 years in Congress. Swalwell has been handily reelected three times since.

He has said, however, he will not seek to return to the House after 2020, which could result in a scramble among local politicians for a rare open seat in the Democratic-leaning district.

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mark.barabak@latimes.com

Twitter: @markzbarabak


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