/Eric Swalwell, congressman from California, joins crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field

Eric Swalwell, congressman from California, joins crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field


A week before announcing his run for president, U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-CA, came back to Iowa, where he was born and lived for five years.
Kelsey Kremer, kkremer@dmreg.com

ALGONA, Iowa – Rep. Eric Swalwell is running for president.

Swalwell, a Democratic congressman from California and a former Oakland prosecutor, has been teasing a 2020 presidential bid for months and made approximately 20 trips to Iowa since the 2016 election. On Monday night, he made his intentions national on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

He now must find a way to stand out among a crowded field of Democratic candidates. His work is cut out for him, including in his former home state. In a March Iowa Poll of likely Democratic caucusgoers, Swalwell received zero votes. He was born in Sac City, Iowa.

As he prepares to campaign vigorously in Iowa in the coming months, he said he believes his message and his background can connect him with Iowans. 

“I want Iowans to know: I see you. I hear you. I’m for you,” he said. “That I’ve lived a life very much like yours.”

Iowa roots

In their attempts to woo Iowa voters, it’s common for presidential candidates to play up their ties to the first-in-the-nation caucus state. But in the crowded 2020 campaign field, Swalwell boasts the most direct connection.   

The 38-year-old lived in northern Iowa until he was 5. His father, Eric Swalwell Sr., worked in law enforcement in Sac City when Swalwell was born, then moved the family to Algona for three years to serve as police chief.

In one of Swalwell’s most vivid memories, his father lost his job as Algona’s police chief in January 1986 after refusing to give ground in a small-town political brouhaha over parking tickets at the county fair. 

“It’s where I learned about doing the right thing,” Swalwell said of Iowa. “It’s the roots of who I am.”  


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How will Swalwell stand out? 

Looking at the polling, Swalwell admits he has room to grow as he kicks off his campaign. But he thinks his youthful optimism and relatability can help him stand out.

Swalwell often repeats the slogan “Go big. Be bold. Do good,” and says he has a desire to “bring the promise of America to all Americans.” He shares that he still has nearly $100,000 in college debt and is raising two children under 2 years old. 

“People know everything about me is real,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be in a family living paycheck-to-paycheck.”

More: Who is running for president in 2020? An interactive guide

Swalwell said he’s heard a lot of concern about health care during his Iowa visits. He supports affordable coverage for all and wants to offer “robust” funding to find disease cures.

“I’ve seen the hollowed-out candy jars at Casey’s General Store with a picture of someone taped to the candy jar who’s sick,” he said, dropping a reference to the Iowa-based chain. “That person’s health care plan is the charity of a stranger at a checkout stand.”

He wants to offer debt-free education to students attending public universities, zero-interest college loans and tax-free employer contributions to student loan debt. He envisions students emerging debt-free by completing work-study programs while attending school and logging volunteer service hours after they graduate. He also wants to fight the rural “brain drain” by forgiving college debt of students who return to work five years in areas that need skilled workers.

As he prepares to crisscross Iowa, Swalwell said he wants to bring his dad back to Algona for a visit. Since his parents often vote Republican, he joked that he might be courting their vote through this process, as well.

“My parents have a Trump-Pence magnet on their fridge,” he chuckled. “I hope I have their vote. They’re not going to make it easy for me.” 

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