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Twenty-Term Democrat Stark in Danger in California Twenty-Term Democrat Stark in Danger in California

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Twenty-Term Democrat Stark in Danger in California

Is Rep. Pete Stark - a California Democrat who has easily won reelection for decades - on the verge of losing his seat? Our colleague Shane Goldmacher reports (for members) on the race and the creative repurposing of an old Stark ad by his opponent:

A confluence of political misfortune and mistakes has left Stark in trouble: an energetic young opponent, a redrawn district, new election rules, plus a series of unforced errors.

"It's like watching a car crash in slow motion," said Nathan Ballard, a Democratic political strategist in the Bay Area who is unaffiliated with either campaign. "Everywhere you look, Pete Stark seems to be making unforgivable mistakes."

In a debate last month, Stark accused his opponent of taking "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes." Except that Stark had no evidence and was soon forced to apologize. Then, he marched into an endorsement meeting at the San Francisco Chronicle and assailed one of the paper's writers for having donated to his opponent. Again, the charge was untrue. Stark also confused Solyndra, the bankrupt energy firm, with Tesla Motors, the maker of electric cars in his district. ...

[Opponent Eric] Swalwell, a Democrat, remains the underdog. A 20-term incumbent, Stark had more than $550,000 on hand at the end of March, while Swalwell had only $93,000, plus $8,000 in debts. But under California's new elections law, both Democrats can advance to the general election if they finish as the top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary, as is expected in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. "He gets two at-bats," Swalwell spokeswoman Lisa Tucker said. ...

Stark first won his seat in 1972, when he ousted an octogenarian incumbent, then-Rep. George Miller, and campaigned as the fresh face. Swalwell has dug up some of Stark's original campaign materials and reproduced a mirror version 40 years later, distributing them at a recent debate.


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