Rep. Pete Stark is not backing down.
The 40-year House veteran acknowledged on Wednesday that he "got a little heated" in a private conversation with a former state lawmaker who has accused the California Democrat of threatening his livelihood and his family because he backed Stark's opponent. But Stark said he was goaded by former California Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, a fellow Democrat, whom Stark accused in a written statement of "itching for a fight."
"He was trying to get under my skin and unfortunately, I took the bait," Stark said.
Torrico told National Journal on Tuesday that he had called Stark to tell him he was backing his opponent, Eric Swalwell, a Dublin city councilman. Torrico said Stark then "lit into me."
In Stark's retelling, he said it was Torrico doing the bullying. "I was disappointed to join the ranks of those he has bullied," Stark said, accusing Torrico of making "insulting comments about my age and family." Age has been a major issue in the reelection bid of Stark, who is 80. His opponent is 31.
Stark went on to question Torrico's motivations for going public and supporting Swalwell.
"The answer for Mr. Torrico may lie in the fact that he works for a lobbying firm now and maybe he has other axes to grind," Stark's statement said.
Torrico had said he planned to be a "passive supporter" of Swalwell, but after the heated conversation with Stark he is "going to do everything I can" to defeat the incumbent.