Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) (AP/Elise Amendola)

Rep. Eric Swalwell becomes second Democrat to drop out of 2020 presidential race

Swalwell's exit comes less than two weeks after the first Democratic primary debate


Shira Tarlo
July 8, 2019 10:01PM (UTC)

Eric Swalwell, a 38-year-old congressman from California's East Bay region, announced on Monday that he was ending his presidential bid.

He is the second Democrat to drop out of the race, following former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda's brief entry into the presidential contest earlier this year, leaving the field at 23 candidates.

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"After the first Democratic presidential debate, our polling and fundraising numbers weren’t what we had hoped for, and I no longer see a path forward to the nomination. My presidential campaign ends today," Swalwell said.

His announcement comes just three months after he declared he was throwing his hat into the presidential ring during an April appearance on "The Late Night Show With Stephen Colbert."

Swalwell, who had somewhat increased his national profile through his position on the powerful House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees and as an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump's foreign policy, failed to gain traction in polls.

During the first Democratic primary debate last week, the California Democrat took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden and other older Democratic candidates, as he said they need to "pass the torch" to a new generation of leadership.

The news of Swalwell's decisions come after he canceled a series of July 4th campaign events in New Hampshire at the last minute, prompting rumors that he planned to exit the race. He will now seek reelection for his House seat.

Swalwell is a frequent guest on cable news shows, where he often raises questions about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and other investigations into the Trump administration's relationships with foreign powers.

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Swalwell also made gun control a focus of his political career, positioning his campaign around the issue. His first major event as a presidential candidate was a town hall near Parkland, Fla., the site of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the Parkland school shooting and co-founder of the March For Our Lives movement for gun safety, was the congressman's guest at Trump's State of the Union Address. Swalwell wrote an op-ed last year saying he was inspired by the movement.

"There's something new and different about the surviving Parkland high schoolers' demands," Swalwell wrote in May 2018. "They dismiss the moral equivalence we've made for far too long regarding the Second Amendment. I've been guilty of it myself, telling constituents and reporters that 'we can protect the Second Amendment and protect lives.'"

"The Parkland teens have taught us there is no right more important than every student's right to come home after class," he continued. "The right to live is supreme over any other."

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Swalwell, an Iowa native, has made it clear he has political ambitions beyond his current positions. He shocked the political establishment when he pulled off an upset victory that sent him to Congress in 2012. The former Bay Area prosecutor was a relatively unknown competitor when he unseated 20-term congressman Peter Stark, then a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee who had represented California's 15th Congressional District since 1973 — seven years before Swalwell was born.

Still, Swalwell, who is known among some lawmakers on Capitol Hill as the "Snapchat king of Congress," remained relatively unknown to a large percentage of American voters and struggled to boost his national profile.

The working parent who is still paying off his student debt while raising two young children has suggested he may be interested in making a play for something other than the presidential nomination, such as a vice presidential nod, a Cabinet position, or perhaps building name recognition to bolster a future Senate run.

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That said, Swalwell told the San Francisco Chronicle in April that he is aiming to "win."

"We're not trying to sell a book or get a leadership position anywhere else," he said at the time. "If I'm going to run, it's going to be because we think we can win and, more important, make a difference."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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