FREMONT (KCBS) – Voters in the newly redrawn 15th Congressional District tossed out Rep. Pete Stark on Tuesday in favor of a more moderate Democrat, Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell.
Stark’s reputation as one of the most outspoken liberals had given way, in recent years, to the perception that the 80-year-old was a loose cannon. He called one Republican lawmaker “a fruitcake,” and another a “whore for the insurance industry.”
KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:
In a race that pitted Democrat against Democrat, Stark lost 53 to 47 percent to a young prosecutor who believes California’s open primary system made it possible to challenge a 20-term incumbent.
“Now you cannot ignore any voter,” said Swalwell, 31.
“I’m a Democrat, a proud Democrat, but in this election we really reached out to Democrats, Republicans, independents.”
The new boundaries of the district also shifted away from Stark’s Fremont base towards the suburbs of San Ramon and Livermore.
Voters saw Stark as an incumbent who had stayed too long, said Stanford political science professor Bruce Cain.
“He always had a tendency to be outspoken and say things that were borderline outrageous, but it seems to have been a problem that got worse over the last couple of years,” Cain said.
“The press was picking up on this and voters eventually picked up on it.”
Bombast was only one aspect of Stark’s legacy. Congressional Democrats praised him as an effective legislator.
“The country is going to miss Congressman Stark very much. He’s been a person who you can count on,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, who handily won her own race for re-election. She had endorsed Stark.
“He knows the legislative process, and he really has delivered for his constituents,” Lee said.
Stark congratulated Swalwell on his victory Wednesday morning.
“I went to Washington by running against an unpopular war and for women’s rights, opportunity for children and dignity for seniors,” he said. “I leave knowing that the landscape has changed, but the needs of my constituents remain.”
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