National Politics

Who is Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell?

Swalwell: Ending gun violence will be a top priority

Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell said on June 21, 2019 during a NALEO forum that his top priority would be to end gun violence.
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Democratic presidential candidate Eric Swalwell said on June 21, 2019 during a NALEO forum that his top priority would be to end gun violence.

UPDATE: Eric Swalwell suspended his presidential campaign on July 8 shortly after the first Democratic debates, ending his bid for the White House.

In his long-shot presidential campaign, Eric Swalwell’s pitch to the American people was simple: Pass the torch to someone new.

The 38-year-old congressman from deep-blue California’s East Bay argued, of course, that he should be its next bearer, even clashing with front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden by quoting Biden’s own words from his first presidential run.

“Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago,” Swalwell said during the first Democratic debates in Miami in June. “He is still right today.”

Biden, for his part, fired back that he was “still holding onto that torch.” Just a few weeks later, Swalwell stood outside his Dublin, Calif., campaign headquarters to announce he was giving up his quest to take it, at least for now.

“We have to be honest about our own candidacy’s viability,” Swalwell said, citing continued low polling numbers even after the debates. The congressman, who had said during his campaign he might run again for his seat in the House, confirmed he would seek re-election next year instead.

“The polls have had their way,” he added. “If there was a viable chance, I would not be standing here today.”

Swalwell’s brief campaign had particular resonance in South Florida, though he hailed from the opposite coast. He was fond of noting he started his campaign in Parkland, with a focus on ending mass shootings and gun violence. He also worked with March For Our Lives student organizers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland to lobby for stricter federal regulations and ways to ban or buy back “15 million assault rifles.”

Raised in California as the oldest of four boys, Swalwell briefly went to college in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship before an injury two years in prompted him to transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park. He attended UMD’s law school in Baltimore, before returning to northern California to practice in Oakland as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney.

It didn’t take long for Swalwell to seek public office: He swiftly ran, and won a two-year term on his city council before deciding to challenge then-Rep. Pete Stark, a nearly 40-year Democratic incumbent, for his U.S. House seat in 2011. Under newly changed California election laws that advanced the top two vote-getters in any primary to a general election, Swalwell narrowly unseated Stark that November and has easily won re-election since.

In three terms in Congress, Swalwell made his stance on gun safety his signature policy issue. He proposed a sweeping ban and buyback plan for semiautomatic assault weapons, as well as more regulations on gun manufacturers and more restrictions on gun sales. But he has noted he has “no problem with people owning handguns,” according to a New York Times interview.

He also built relationships with some of the students who survived the Parkland shooting in 2018, including Cameron Kasky, who was his guest at the State of the Union address and has appeared with him in events since.

But like about a half dozen other members of Congress running, Swalwell’s polling and donations had been held back by a lack of name recognition and a wide field that will likely be winnowed further before the first state primaries and caucuses.

Shortly before the first Democratic debates, he lost two Florida endorsements to presidential rival and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschoksky, as well as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, said they would be backing the Midwestern politician instead. Swalwell also canceled a two-day campaign trip to New Hampshire timed for the Fourth of July holiday in the final days of his campaign, signaling he would drop out soon.

Swalwell’s House seat has already drawn another potential candidate, though the person has said they would reconsider running if Swalwell chose to return. In his announcement ending his campaign, Swalwell suggested he would rededicate himself to increasing Democratic margins in Congress, and continuing to push gun regulations as he had in his presidential campaign.

“It is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective shaped by the lives that have touched mine and our campaign,” he said.

About Eric Swalwell

Current or most recent position: U.S. Representative from California, 6.5 years

Other elected offices: Dublin City Council, 2 years

Occupation: Prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

Education: University of Maryland, bachelor’s degree and juris doctor.

Age: 38

Residence: Dublin, Calif.

Family: Wife Brittany, son Nelson

Campaign website:

Fun fact: Swalwell is a prolific user of Snapchat — so much so that in 2016 a Hill reporter dubbed him the “Snapchat king of Congress.”

On the issues: Health care, education, clean government, ending gun violence

Sources of biographical information: Eric Swalwell campaign site, San Jose Mercury-News, New York Times, Washington Post

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