Eric Swalwell

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Eric Swalwell
Eric Swalwell 114th official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 15th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byPete Stark (13th)
Personal details
Eric Michael Swalwell Jr.

(1980-11-16) November 16, 1980 (age 38)
Sac City, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Brittany Watts (m. 2016)
EducationCampbell University
University of Maryland, College Park (BA)
University of Maryland, Baltimore (JD)
WebsiteHouse website
Campaign website

Eric Michael Swalwell Jr.[1] (born November 16, 1980) is an American politician from California, who serves as the U.S. Representative from California's 15th congressional district. He is a member of the Democratic Party. His district covers most of eastern Alameda County and part of central Contra Costa County, including San Ramon, Castro Valley, Hayward, Pleasanton, Livermore, Fremont, Sunol, Union City, and Dublin.

Swalwell was raised in Sac City, Iowa and Dublin, California. While attending the University of Maryland, College Park, he served on the city council for College Park, Maryland. He then interned for Ellen Tauscher and worked as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California, before serving on the city council for Dublin. He was elected to the U.S. House in November 2012, defeating incumbent Pete Stark, a fellow Democrat almost a half-century Swalwell's senior, who had held the office since 1973. Swalwell took office on January 3, 2013.[2][3][4][5]

Swalwell has been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2020 and has publicly expressed interest in such a prospect.[6]

Early life and education[edit]

Swalwell was born in Sac City, Iowa, the first of four sons of Eric Nelson Swalwell and Vicky Joe Swalwell; his father at that time was serving as police chief in Algona, Iowa. After leaving Iowa, the family eventually settled in Dublin, California.[7] He graduated from Wells Middle School, and then from Dublin High School in 1999.[8]

He attended Campbell University in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship from 1999 to 2001.[9][10] He lost the scholarship after suffering an injury.[7] He then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, as a junior.[9] In 2003, he received a bachelor's degree in Government and Politics at Maryland, and in 2006 earned his J.D. degree from the University of Maryland School of Law.

At the University of Maryland, Swalwell served as Vice President of Campus Affairs for the Student Government Association, and was an elected member of the Student-Faculty-Staff University Senate and of its executive committee. He was also an active member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.[11] He also served as the student liaison to the City Council of College Park;[12] this appointment inspired other college towns to consider similar arrangements.[13]

Career in local politics[edit]

In 2001 and 2002, Swalwell interned for Ellen Tauscher, who served in the United States House of Representatives for California's 10th congressional district, in her Washington, D.C. office, focusing on legislative research and constituent outreach and services.[14] The September 11 terrorist attacks occurred during his internship, inspiring him to public service. The attacks also inspired his first legislative achievement: using his Student Government Association position at Maryland to create a public–private college scholarship program for students who lost parents in the attacks.

After graduating from law school, he worked as an Alameda County deputy district attorney. He also served on the Dublin Heritage & Cultural Arts Commission from 2006 to 2008 and on the Dublin Planning Commission from 2008 to 2010 before winning election to the Dublin City Council in 2010.[15]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

2012 campaign[edit]

Representative Eric Swalwell on the Capitol Hill steps with friends, family, and campaign staff

In September 2011, Swalwell filed to run for Congress in the 15th district.[16] The district had previously been the 13th, represented by 20-term incumbent Pete Stark, a fellow Democrat. Stark had represented the district since 1973, seven years before Swalwell was born. He took a leave of absence from the Dublin City Council in order to run for the seat.[7] While he was running for the seat, an attempted recall of Swalwell from the city council was begun, but after he won election to the U.S. House, the attempt was abandoned.

Swalwell was able to contest Stark in the general election because of a new primary system in California. Under that new system, the top two primary vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.[17] In the June primary election, Stark finished first with 41.8% of the vote, Swalwell placed second with 36% of the vote, and the independent but ideologically conservative candidate Chris Pareja finished third with 22.2% of the vote.[18]

In the November 2012 general election, Swalwell was endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle.[19][20] During the 2012 election cycle, the Stark campaign accused Swalwell of being a Tea Party candidate. The accusation was refuted by Swalwell and the San Jose Mercury News, which also endorsed Swalwell.[21] Stark refused to debate Swalwell during the campaign. In response to Stark's refusal to debate, Swalwell organized a mock debate with an actor playing Pete Stark, quoting him verbatim when answering the moderator. Other campaign gimmicks included Chinese-manufactured rubber ducks, and a dreadlocked, bearded information man.[5][22]

In the November 2012 election, Swalwell defeated Stark, 52.1% to 47.9%.[23]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

U.S. House career[edit]

Swalwell was sworn into the House on January 3, 2013, becoming only the third person to represent this district and its predecessors since 1945. George P. Miller had held the seat from 1945 to 1973; Stark won it after unseating Miller in the 1972 Democratic primary.

In his first term, Swalwell served on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Swalwell helped lead the fight against Transportation Security Administration administrator John Pistole on his decision to lift the ban on pocketknives at airport security;[25] the decision eventually was reversed.

Soon after taking office, Swalwell helped establish the United Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of freshman House members who met regularly to discuss areas of agreement.[26] United Solutions Caucus members introduced several iterations of the bipartisan Savings, Accountability, Value, and Efficiency (SAVE) Act to cut approximately hundreds of billions in government spending over 10 years by rooting out waste and improving efficiency.[27]

During a House vote on June 18, 2013,[28] Swalwell recorded a video of his vote against a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks to his mobile phone (the video was a six-second clip of him pressing the "nay" button on the electronic voting machine) and uploaded it to Vine, an internet video service.[29] House rules bar "the use of mobile electronic devices that impair decorum" and provide that "No device may be used for still photography or for audio or video recording."[29] Swalwell defended the action, stating "We operate under rules that were created in the eighteenth century, and I think it's time that the Congress start to act more like regular Americans do. I did not see this as impairing the decorum. I think what this did was highlight, for all to see, the democratic process."[29]

On December 12, 2013, Swalwell introduced the Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act into the House.[30] The bill allowed Americans to deduct from their 2013 taxes any charitable donations made between January 1, 2014, and April 15, 2014, provided they were made for the relief of victims in the Republic of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan.[30] The typhoon did an estimated $1 billion in damage and killed thousands of people.[31] Swawell said that "Typhoon Haiyan devastated many parts of the Philippines and we should make it as easy as possible for Americans who want to assist those affected by the storm."[31] Swalwell saw the bill as providing "another incentive for Americans to donate and donate now - when their help is needed most".[31] On March 25, 2014, this legislation was signed into law by President Obama.[32]

By the end of his first term, Swalwell had gotten three bills through the House and two of them signed into law — more than any other freshman.[33]

In 2014, Swalwell announced that he would serve as chairman of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's O' Say Can You See PAC's Young Professionals Leadership Circle due to his friendship with the governor. He made clear that his support was about the 2014 midterm elections and not an endorsement of a potential presidential bid by O'Malley in 2016.[34] However, Swalwell did ultimately endorse O'Malley in July 2015.[35]

Swalwell was challenged in 2014 by Hugh Bussell, a senior manager at Workday and an Alameda County Republican Central Committee member, and by California State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward. Corbett placed third in June's top-two primary,[36] and Swalwell defeated Bussell in November, 69.8 percent to 30.2 percent.[37]

In his second term, Swalwell served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ranking member of its CIA Subcommittee; he also retained his seat on the Science Committee.

Swalwell meets with President Barack Obama on February 12, 2015.

Swalwell in April 2015 founded Future Forum,[38] a group of young House Democrats focused upon the concerns and needs of the millennial generation. Swalwell still chairs the group – now numbering 27 members – and has traveled to more than 40 cities to listen to millennials' concerns at college campuses, business incubators, and other locales. These listening sessions have led Swalwell to become particularly outspoken on the issue of student loan debt;[39] as of mid-2017, Swalwell said he himself still carried almost $100,000 in debt from his undergraduate and law-school education.

Swalwell in May 2015 joined with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to launch the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus,[40] to explore how this burgeoning new economic sector can benefit more Americans.

In February 2016, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi elevated Swalwell to vice-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee,[41] which sets the Democratic policy agenda and nominates Democratic Members for committee assignments.

Swalwell was challenged in 2016 by Republican Danny Reid Turner of Livermore.[42] Swalwell defeated Turner in November, 73.8 percent to 26.2 percent.[43]

In December 2016, Swalwell was named the co-chair of Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, serving with Rosa DeLauro.[44]

In his third term, Swalwell retained his Intelligence Committee seat but left the Science committee in order to serve on the House Committee on the Judiciary,[45] and on its Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property and its Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

Swalwell and Rep. Elijah Cummings in December 2016 introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act,[46] which would create an independent, bipartisan-appointed commission to investigate foreign interference in the 2016 election. They reintroduced the legislation for the 115th Congress in January 2017,[47] and it soon won co-sponsorship from all House Democrats.

Through this legislation and the Intelligence Committee's hearings, Swalwell emerged as a voice in the investigation of possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. He has been a constant presence on national news networks throughout 2017.[48]

Swalwell also is known for his innovative and extensive use of social media to connect with constituents. In April 2016, The Hill dubbed him "the Snapchat king of Congress",[49] and he used Facebook Live and Periscope to broadcast House Democrats' historic gun-violence sit-in in June 2016.[50] Swalwell later called for new policies regarding cameras on the House floor,[51] and Republicans considered fining him and others for streaming the sit-in;[52] neither has occurred.

Political positions[edit]

Swalwell has advocated the repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act, and increasing funding for education, while decreasing funding for defense. He has also advocated for renewable energy jobs to be created with federal stimulus money. He has stated he would attempt to raise the cap on the Social Security payroll tax (which currently applies to annual earnings only up to $110,000 as of 2012), so that wealthier Americans would pay more into the program. He has proposed the idea of a "mobile Congress", with members casting votes remotely, while spending more time in their districts.[53][54] In March 2013 Swalwell led in the writing of an open letter to John S. Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), opposing the new policy which would allow passengers to bring knives on-board airplanes.[55] He is a strong supporter of marriage equality for same-sex couples, and is staunchly pro-choice.[56] On February 8, 2018, Swalwell introduced the Journalist Protection Act as a response to what he characterized as President Trump's creation of a climate of extreme hostility toward the press.[57] On his government website, Swalwell proposes a mandatory buyback of "military style semi-automatic assault weapons", with prosecution of anyone who fails to comply after the allotted timeline.

Personal life[edit]

Swalwell and his first wife are divorced. He married his second wife in October 2016: Brittany Watts, a sales director, at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay.[58] Together, the couple have a son, Eric Nelson Swalwell (born in 2017)[59] and a daughter, Kathryn Watts Swalwell, who is nicknamed "Cricket" (born October 24, 2018).[60]

Electoral history[edit]

2010 Dublin, California City Council elections[61]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Eric Swalwell 6,468 36.8
Nonpartisan Don Biddle 5,380 30.6
Nonpartisan Kate Ann Scholz (incumbent) 3,638 20.7
Nonpartisan Shawn Costello 1,993 11.3
Total votes 17,573 100.0
California's 15th congressional district election, 2012[62]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pete Stark (incumbent) 39,943 42.1
Democratic Eric Swalwell 34,347 36.0
No party preference Christopher "Chris" J. Pareja 20,618 21.7
Total votes 94,908 100.0
General election
Democratic Eric Swalwell 120,388 52.1
Democratic Pete Stark (incumbent) 110,646 47.9
Total votes 231,034 100.0
Democratic hold
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2014[63]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 99,756 69.8
Republican Hugh Bussell 43,150 30.2
Total votes 142,906 100.00
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2016[64]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 198,578 73.8
Republican Danny R. Turner 70,619 26.2
Total votes 269,197 100
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2018[65]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 177,989 73.0
Republican Rudy L. Peters Jr. 65,940 27.0


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  26. ^ Strong, Jonathan (February 15, 2013). "Let's Get Along: House Freshmen Embrace Bipartisan Comity". Roll Call. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  27. ^ "Congressional United Solutions Caucus Press release: Murphy Unveils Bipartisan Bill to Cut $479 Billion in Wasteful Government Spending". LegiStorm. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  28. ^ "Rep. Swalwell Vine Vote".
  29. ^ a b c Greve, Joan E. (June 20, 2013). "Rep. Swalwell Defends Uploading Vote Video to Vine". ABC News. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
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  32. ^ Del Callar, Michaela (March 26, 2014). "Obama signs law allowing American donors to claim deductions on Yolanda donations". GMA News and Public Affairs. Quezon City, Philippines: GMA Network Inc. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
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  52. ^ "House GOP Proposes Fines For Livestreaming After Gun Control Sit-In". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved September 24, 2017.
  53. ^ "Eric Swalwell - Candidate for U.S. President, Republican Nomination - Election 2012". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 15, 2012.
  54. ^ Josh Richman, Rep. Pete Stark faces challenge from young Democrat and tea party independent, East Bay Times (May 21, 2012): "Swalwell said he would save Social Security by raising the payroll tax cap from its current $110,000 and raise the retirement age to better reflect life expectancies."
  55. ^ "March 2013 Press Release".
  56. ^ "Eric Swalwell recommended for House". San Francisco Chronicle. May 4, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2015.
  57. ^ "The time is right for the Journalist Protection Act. But we need a federal shield law". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  58. ^ "Brittany Watts, Eric Swalwell". The New York Times. October 16, 2016. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  59. ^ Wire, Sarah D. "California Rep. Eric Swalwell and wife Brittany welcome a baby boy, Nelson". Los Angeles Times.
  60. ^
  61. ^ "2010 City Ballot Measure Election Results" (PDF). California Secretary of State. p. 86. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  62. ^ 2012 general election results Archived October 19, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  63. ^ "House of Representatives District 15 - Districtwide Results". Archived from the original on 2014-12-21. Retrieved 2014-12-21.
  64. ^ "Statement of Vote - November 8, 2016, General Election" (PDF). California Secretary of State. p. 5. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  65. ^ "General Election - Statement of Vote, November 6, 2018 — United States Representative in Congress by District" (PDF). California Secretary of State. p. 5. Retrieved 17 January 2019.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Pete Stark
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 15th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Donna Edwards
Chair of the House Democratic Policy Committee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Chris Stewart
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Mark Takano