University of Maryland alumnus Eric Swalwell, a four-term San Francisco Bay Area congressman who has grown into a cable TV fixture as a slashing and unremitting critic of President Donald Trump, formally announced Monday his long-shot bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Fittingly, he chose national television as the venue to declare his intent, saying on CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” he would “go big on the issues we take on, be bold in the solutions we offer and do good in the way we govern.”
Swalwell, 38, has essentially been running for president for the better part of the past two years. Still, he will have to work to distinguish himself in a crowded field approaching 20 contestants.
He is neither the youngest candidate nor the only millennial in the Democratic race — South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is 37 — and he shares his Northern California political base with Sen. Kamala Harris, a former district attorney in San Francisco.
His positions on major issues are shared by most other Democrats running, among them support for universal health care, higher taxes on the wealthy and a more aggressive federal effort to fight climate change.
Perhaps his greatest distinction is his birthplace, in rural Iowa, where Swalwell lived until age 5, when his family moved to California. Iowa casts the first ballots of the nominating process, and the congressman has all but taken up formal residency in the state.
Much of the rest of his time has been spent on the cable television airwaves, where he regularly criticizes Trump and his associates. A member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, Swalwell has repeatedly accused the president of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election, pressing his assertion even after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III found no grounds for criminal prosecution.
“I stand by what I said about seeing evidence of collusion,” Swalwell said on MSNBC after Attorney General William Barr issued his four-page summary of Mueller’s report. “If [Trump] has a problem with that, he can sue me. And I promise you I would win in court.”
Swalwell’s pugnacity, which has helped deliver him more than 500,000 Twitter followers, is matched by his keen personal ambition.
A former Alameda County prosecutor, he was appointed in 2006 to the Heritage & Cultural Arts Commission in Dublin, the East Bay Area suburb where he attended high school, and in 2008 was elevated to the city Planning Commission. Two years after that, he was elected to the City Council.
Then, just a few months into his term, Swalwell launched an insurgent campaign that successfully ousted the dean of California’s congressional delegation, fellow Democrat Pete Stark, after 40 years in Congress. Swalwell has been handily reelected three times since.
He has said, however, he will not seek to return to the House after 2020, which could result in a scramble among local politicians for a rare open seat in the Democratic-leaning district.
The former government and politics major at Maryland’s flagship university first tasted public service as a Capitol Hill intern and as the student government’s vice president of campus affairs. He also served as the College Park City Council’s first student liaison, a position he created to strengthen the relationship between students and residents.
The first in his family to attend college, Swalwell said he struggled to afford tuition once he transferred to Maryland from Campbell University in North Carolina, where he played Division I soccer on a scholarship until an injury ended his athletic career.
While at Maryland, he met Martin O’Malley, the Baltimore City councilman-turned-mayor, and volunteered for his campaign when O’Malley ousted Ehrlich as governor in 2006.
“I was really just moved by his service and have been with him ever since,” Swalwell said.