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Before Term Begins, Swalwell Looking Over Shoulder

Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press
After knocking off Stark, right, in California’s Democratic-leaning 15th District last month, Swalwell is already seeing potential challengers from his own party, but he’s determined not to be a “one-hit wonder.”

“I’m right now focused on teaching and practicing law,” Khanna said. “I think it’s premature before the president has even been sworn in, before the new Congress has even been sworn in, to be thinking about the future.”

The 15th is a heavily Democratic district unlikely to ever flip party control, and with the top-two primary system, there is a decent chance Swalwell will never face a Republican in the general election. So it’s not yet clear how much institutional backing the incoming freshman will receive.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee supports incumbents, even in intraparty duels, but resource allocation isn’t decided until later in the cycle, a committee source said. Swalwell said the DCCC did not intervene in his challenge to Stark. The congressional campaign committees typically stay out of contests that do not jeopardize their party’s hold on a seat, even in cases where an incumbent might be vulnerable to an intraparty ouster.

Swalwell, who put in bids for slots on the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, is at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government this week with about 50 newly elected members attending a four-day conference on leadership and policy. When the Californian gets to Washington next month, he plans to settle into the spare bedroom of a childhood friend from Dublin, Calif., whom he’ll stay with during the workweek.

He’s currently transitioning out of his roles as Dublin city councilman and Alameda County deputy district attorney. His last council meeting is Dec. 18, and he’ll continue to close out his cases and work on projects in the DA’s office through Dec. 31.

As a prosecutor, Swalwell tried three homicides in the past year, and his work there may have served him well on the trail. He said there is a “corollary” between prosecuting and running for office.

“If you think about it, you’re dealing with jurors who are like voters,” he said. “You’re presenting evidence to them, you’re making a case. Then you’re asking them to do something.”

The University of Maryland graduate interned for then-Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, D-Calif., one summer during college and worked two jobs to help pay his way — at Tortilla Coast and Washington Sports Club. About a decade later, Swalwell will call colleagues some of the same people he once served dinner and saw at the gym.

Swalwell, who hoped to speak with Stark after the election, said he still has not heard from the outgoing congressman, known for his acerbic personality, or from Stark’s staff.

“The voters in this race, they voted for me and changed out a 40-year incumbent,” Swalwell said. “So I think they’re ready for new energy and ideas, and it’s up to me to deliver what I promised.”

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