He joins a crowded presidential primary, potentially bolstered by his role on the House Intelligence Committee investigating Trump.
Avid followers of cable news Trump-Russia coverage are probably at least acquainted with Rep. Eric Swalwell, the California Democrat on one of the House’s leading investigatory panels.
Now Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, is running for president.
He announced his candidacy on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert with a message about the forgotten men and women.
“I talk to teachers and truckers and nurses, and they feel as if they’re just running in place,” Swalwell said, adding, without much specificity, that he would offer “bold” leadership.
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) April 8, 2019
Swalwell is one of several lesser-known House Democrats eying the White House; Rep. John Delaney was the first Democrat to declare a run for the presidency, Rep. Tim Ryan announced his bid for the Democratic nomination in early April, and Rep. Seth Moulton is also considering a run. Swalwell will join a packed field of Democrats, including high-profile senators like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris; ex-lawmakers like Beto O’Rourke; and a mayor, Pete Buttigieg.
It’s well documented that Swalwell, a 38-year-old Iowa native who represents a safely Democratic San Francisco Bay Area district, has political ambitions beyond his current position. He came to Congress in 2013 by unseating a 20-term incumbent Pete Stark, who at the time was one of the most powerful California House Democrats. He did it by painting Stark as too out of touch with the district.
He’s since gotten himself on the House Democratic leadership team, as well as a spot on two high-profile committees; the House Judiciary Committee, which has been charged with investigating Trump’s immigration policy, and the intelligence committee.
But even the most generous readings of a path forward for Swalwell seem tenuous. He’s not the only Californian in the race; Harris, a much more well-known statewide office holder with a more robust fundraising structure in place, is already running. He’s not even the most well-known young guy in the race; Buttigieg has increasingly taken up that mantle. Swalwell has made several trips to Iowa, as well as Kansas, Nevada, and Texas, but still isn’t registering any support in early Iowa polls.
That said, Swalwell has told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is aiming to “win” — he’s “not trying to sell a book or get a leadership position anywhere else,” he said.
Eric Swalwell is your average House Democrat
Swalwell is a liberal, and were it not for his presidential ambitions, he would largely blend in as one in the sea of liberal white men that still make up the majority of House Democrats.
Though there’s been some debate about what kind of liberal he is — progressive California Rep. Ro Khanna, who once considered running for Swalwell’s seat and is now one of Bernie Sanders’s top advisers, will argue Swalwell won his seat by challenging Stark well from the right — Swalwell’s record is pretty generic.
A former City Council member in Dublin, California, who became a county prosecutor, Swalwell is a law-and-order Democrat (the son of a police officer) who champions the “green economy” and a “health care guarantee.” He’s said he supports the broad principles of the Green New Deal, saying it’s important to reorient jobs away from fossil fuels, and he thinks gun violence prevention should be a more prominent issue.
Swalwell has suggested a federal buyback and ban of semi-automatic weapons. He holds the almost-expected progressive beliefs around same-sex marriage and abortion rights. In the House, he established a group of young Democrats dedicated to debating issues relevant to millennials. It’s called the “Future Forum.”
All of that aside, however, in Congress, Swalwell is probably best known for his investigatory role as a member of both the intelligence and judiciary committees, which have been looking into Trump’s foreign relations and immigration policy respectively.
Notably, that aspect of his experience has also gained a reputation among Republicans, who openly chastise him for using his committee positions to raise a national presence, whether on TV or at the hearings. At one hearing with Attorney General Matthew Whittaker, Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins publicly critiqued Swalwell, telling him to “ask questions that are actually part of this [hearing] instead of running for president.”
Obviously, Swalwell doesn’t see it that way.
“I think I will be in the top tier of a field of candidates with national security experience,’’ Swalwell told Politico.