Eric Swalwell

Eric Michael Swalwell (born November 16, 1980) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 15th congressional district since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, his district covers most of eastern Alameda County and part of central Contra Costa County. Swalwell was raised in Sac City, Iowa, and Dublin, California.

Eric Swalwell
Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Serving with Barbara Lee and Cheri Bustos
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byDonna Edwards
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 15th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded byPete Stark (redistricting)
Personal details
Eric Michael Swalwell

(1980-11-16) November 16, 1980
Sac City, Iowa, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Brittany Watts
(m. 2016)
EducationUniversity of Maryland, College Park (BA)
University of Maryland, Baltimore (JD)
WebsiteHouse website
Campaign website

While attending the University of Maryland, College Park, Swalwell served as a student liaison to the city council for College Park, Maryland. He then interned for Ellen Tauscher and worked as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California. Before being elected to the U.S. House, he served as a local appointee on Dublin commissions, and served one term elected to the Dublin City Council.

Swalwell was elected to the U.S. House in November 2012, defeating incumbent Pete Stark, a 40-year incumbent who had held the office since 1973. Stark was a fellow Democrat almost a half-century Swalwell's senior; Swalwell was born shortly after Stark's re-election to his fifth term in Congress in the 1980 election. Swalwell took office on January 3, 2013.

Swalwell has co-chaired the House Democratic Steering Committee since 2017. He was a candidate in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries from April through July 2019.

Early life and education

Swalwell was born on November 16, 1980, in Sac City, Iowa, the first of four sons of Eric Nelson Swalwell and Vicky Joe Swalwell, both of whom are Republicans;[1] his father was then serving as police chief in Algona, Iowa. After leaving Iowa, the family eventually settled in Dublin, California.[2] He graduated from Wells Middle School and then from Dublin High School in 1999.[3] As a child, Swalwell suffered from Bell's palsy and worried the paralysis would never go away. To correct the condition he had to wear an eye patch.[4]

Swalwell attended Campbell University in North Carolina on a soccer scholarship from 1999 to 2001.[5][6] He broke both of his thumbs in 2001, his sophomore year, ending the scholarship.[2][7] Swalwell transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, as a junior.[5] In 2003, he completed his bachelor's degree in government and politics at Maryland. He enrolled at the University of Maryland School of Law and earned his Juris Doctor in 2006.[8]

At the University of Maryland, Swalwell served as Vice President of Campus Affairs for the Student Government Association, and was an elected member of the Student-Faculty-Staff University Senate and of its executive committee. He was also an active member of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity,[9] and served as a student liaison to the City Council of College Park;[10] the latter appointment inspired other college towns to consider similar arrangements.[11]

Career in local politics

In 2001 and 2002, Swalwell worked as an unpaid intern for Ellen Tauscher in the United States House of Representatives, then representative for California's 10th congressional district. Swalwell focused on legislative research and constituent outreach and services.[8] The September 11 terrorist attacks occurred during his internship, inspiring him to public service.[12] The attacks also inspired his first legislative achievement: using his Student Government Association position at Maryland to create a public–private college scholarship program for students who lost parents in the attacks.[12]

After graduating from law school, he worked as an Alameda County deputy district attorney. He also served on the Dublin Heritage & Cultural Arts Commission from 2006 to 2008 and on the Dublin Planning Commission from 2008 to 2010 before winning election to the Dublin City Council in 2010.[13] While he was running for the U.S. Congress, an attempted recall of Swalwell from the city council led by an anonymous group began,[14][15] but the effort was later abandoned.[16]

U.S. House of Representatives


Representative Eric Swalwell on the Capitol Hill steps with friends, family, and campaign staff, 2013

In September 2011, Swalwell filed to run for Congress in the 15th district of California[17] The district had previously been the 13th, represented by 20-term incumbent Democrat Pete Stark. Stark had represented the district since 1973, seven years before Swalwell was born. Swalwell took a leave of absence from the Dublin City Council in order to run for the seat.[2]

Swalwell was only able to contest Stark in the general election because of California's "top two" primary system put in place by 2010 California Proposition 14. Under that system, the top two primary vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.[18] In the June primary election, Stark finished first with 41.8 percent of the vote, Swalwell placed second with 36 percent of the vote, and independent candidate Chris Pareja finished third with 22.2 percent of the vote.[19]

In the November 2012 general election, Swalwell was endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle.[20][21] During the 2012 election cycle, the Stark campaign accused Swalwell of being a Tea Party candidate. The accusation was denied by Swalwell and dismissed by the San Jose Mercury News, which also endorsed Swalwell.[22] Stark refused to debate Swalwell during the campaign. In response, Swalwell organized a mock debate with an actor playing Pete Stark, quoting him verbatim when answering the moderator. Other campaign gimmicks included Chinese-manufactured rubber ducks, and a dreadlocked, bearded information man.[23][24]

In the November 2012 election, Swalwell defeated Stark, 52.1 to 47.9 percent.[25]


Swalwell was challenged in 2014 by Republican Hugh Bussell, a senior manager at Workday, Inc., and by Democratic State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett of Hayward. The Democratic challenger, Corbett, placed third place in June's top-two primary, not earning enough votes to make the general election.[26] Swalwell defeated Bussell in the November general election, 69.8 percent to 30.2 percent.[27] He was sworn into his second term on January 3, 2015.


Swalwell was challenged in 2016 by Republican Danny Reid Turner of Livermore.[28] Swalwell defeated Turner in the November general election, 73.8 percent to 26.2 percent.[29] He was sworn into his third term on January 3, 2017.


Swalwell was challenged in 2018 by Republican Rudy Peters of Livermore.[30] Swalwell defeated Peters in the November general election, 73.0 to 27.0 percent.[31] He was sworn into his fourth term on January 3, 2019.


Swallwell won the 2020 election against Republican challenger Alison Hayden, 70.9 to 29.1 percent.[32]


During his service in the House, Swalwell has become known for innovative and extensive use of social media to connect with constituents. In April 2016, The Hill dubbed him "the Snapchat king of Congress",[33] and he used Facebook Live and Periscope to broadcast House Democrats' historic gun-violence sit-in in June 2016.[34] Swalwell later called for new policies regarding cameras on the House floor.[35]

Swalwell was sworn into his first term in the House on January 3, 2013, becoming only the third person to represent this district and its predecessors since 1945. George P. Miller had held the seat from 1945 to 1973; Stark won it after unseating Miller in the 1972 Democratic primary.

In his first term, Swalwell served on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Swalwell helped lead the fight against Transportation Security Administration administrator John S. Pistole on his decision to lift the ban on pocketknives at airport security;[36] the decision eventually was reversed.

Soon after taking office, Swalwell helped establish the United Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group of freshman House members who met regularly to discuss areas of agreement.[37]

During a House vote on June 18, 2013,[38] Swalwell recorded a video of his vote against a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks to his mobile phone (the video was a six-second clip of him pressing the "nay" button on the electronic voting machine) and uploaded it to Vine, an internet video service.[39] House rules bar "the use of mobile electronic devices that impair decorum" and provide that "No device may be used for still photography or for audio or video recording."[39] Swalwell defended the action, stating "We operate under rules that were created in the eighteenth century, and I think it's time that the Congress start to act more like regular Americans do. I did not see this as impairing the decorum. I think what this did was highlight, for all to see, the democratic process."[39]

On December 12, 2013, Swalwell introduced the Philippines Charitable Giving Assistance Act into the House.[40] The bill allowed Americans to deduct from their 2013 taxes any charitable donations made between January 1, 2014, and April 15, 2014, provided they were made for the relief of victims in the Republic of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan.[40] The typhoon caused an estimated $1 billion in damage and killed thousands of people.[41] Swalwell said that "Typhoon Haiyan devastated many parts of the Philippines and we should make it as easy as possible for Americans who want to assist those affected by the storm."[41] Swalwell saw the bill as providing "another incentive for Americans to donate and donate now – when their help is needed most".[41] On March 25, 2014, this legislation was signed into law by President Obama.[42]

By the end of his first term, Swalwell had gotten three bills through the House and two of them signed into law — more than any other freshman.[43]

In 2014, Swalwell announced that he would serve as chairman of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's O' Say Can You See PAC's Young Professionals Leadership Circle due to his friendship with the governor. He made clear that his support was about the 2014 midterm elections and not an endorsement of a potential presidential bid by O'Malley in 2016.[44] However, Swalwell did ultimately endorse O'Malley in July 2015.[45]

During his second term, Swalwell served on the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ranking member of its Central Intelligence Agency Subcommittee. He also retained his seat on the United States House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Swalwell meets with President Barack Obama on February 12, 2015.

In April 2015, Swalwell founded Future Forum,[46] a group of young House Democrats focused on the concerns of millennials. A year later, Swalwell stated that in the meetings the groups had held at places like college campuses and startups, participants had brought up student loan debt as their most pressing concern. At the time, Swalwell himself still carried almost $100,000 in debt from his undergraduate and law-school education.[47]

In May 2015, Swalwell joined with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to launch the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus,[48] to explore how this burgeoning new economic sector can benefit more Americans.

In February 2016, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi elevated Swalwell to vice-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee,[49] which sets the Democratic policy agenda and nominates Democratic Members for committee assignments.

In December 2016, Swalwell was named the co-chair of House Democratic Steering Committee, replacing Donna Edwards[50] and serving with Rosa DeLauro.[51] He now co-chairs the committee with Barbara Lee and Cheri Bustos.[52]

Swalwell also retained his seat on the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence but left the United States House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in order to serve on the United States House Committee on the Judiciary,[53] and its Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, and Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

Swalwell and Rep. Elijah Cummings in December 2016 introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act,[54] which would create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate foreign interference in the 2016 election. They reintroduced the legislation for the 115th Congress in January 2017,[55] but despite promoting a bipartisan commission, it failed to win any meaningful bipartisan support. The bill has been widely seen as unnecessarily duplicative given the then on-going Special Counsel investigation (2017–2019), as well as multiple existing committee investigations in the U.S. Congress. Swalwell's bill attracted support along entirely strict partisan lines except for two Republicans, and ultimately failed to reach a vote in the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Swalwell has remained a constant presence on national news networks throughout 2017, voicing his views on the investigations.

Given Swalwell's position on the House Intelligence Committee, he played a role in investigating the purported links between Trump associates and Russian officials during his third term, stating that "[i]t's always smelled like collusion."[56]

In December 2020, Swalwell was named in a press report about suspected Chinese spy Christine Fang, who had since at least 2012 been cultivating contacts with California politicians who the Chinese government believed had promising futures in politics.[57][58] Axios reported that Fang participated in fundraising for Swalwell's 2014 congressional election bid, met Swalwell at events, and helped place an intern inside Swalwell's congressional office. Swalwell ended ties with Fang in 2015 after U.S. intelligence briefed him and top members of Congress on concerns Chinese agents were attempting to infiltrate Congress. Officials believed Fang did not obtain classified information from her contacts, and Swalwell was not accused of any impropriety.[59] In spite of this, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy moved in March 2021 to remove Swalwell from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, which was tabled 218–200–3 on a party-line vote. Swalwell suggested the information may have been leaked to the press by someone in the Trump administration, as he had been a vocal critic of the president and served on two committees involved in Trump's impeachment.[60]

In 2018, Swalwell's personal data was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Trump administration.[61] The leak also targeted Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.[62]

On March 5, 2021, Swalwell filed a civil lawsuit against Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Representative Mo Brooks, and Rudy Giuliani), seeking damages for their alleged role in inciting the January 6 attack on the Capitol.[63]

Committee assignments

  • Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
    • Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness (Chair)
    • Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research
  • Committee on the Judiciary
    • Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property
    • Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law
  • Committee on Homeland Security[64]

Caucus memberships

  • House Democratic Steering Committee (co-chair)
  • American Sikh Congressional Caucus
  • Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus[65]
  • Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Blue Collar Caucus

2020 presidential campaign

Eric Swalwell speaking to the California Democratic Party State Convention in June 2019.
Swalwell for America
Campaign2020 United States presidential election (Democratic Party primaries)
CandidateEric Swalwell
U.S. Representative from California's 15th district (2013–present)
AffiliationDemocratic Party
AnnouncedApril 8, 2019
SuspendedJuly 8, 2019
HeadquartersDublin, California
ReceiptsUS$2,602,439.44[66] (9-31-2019)

Swalwell announced his candidacy on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on April 8, 2019.[67][68] He also released a campaign ad announcing his campaign on his social media pages.[69] Swalwell had stated that gun control would be the primary focus of his campaign.[70] He made a formal announcement at Dublin High School on April 14, 2019.[71][72]

Swalwell participated in one presidential debate. During the debate, he commented that he was six when Joe Biden spoke of passing the torch to a younger generation.[73] On July 8, 2019, Swalwell withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination.[74] At the time, he was at risk of not qualifying for the second set of debates.[75]

Political positions

Swalwell advocated the repeal of the No Child Left Behind Act, and increasing funding for education, while decreasing funding for defense. He has also advocated for renewable energy jobs to be created with federal stimulus money. He has stated he would attempt to raise the cap on the Social Security payroll tax (which currently applies to annual earnings only up to $110,000 as of 2012), so that wealthier Americans would pay more into the program. He has proposed the idea of a "mobile Congress", with members casting votes remotely, while spending more time in their districts.[76][77] In March 2013 Swalwell led in the writing of an open letter to John S. Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), opposing the new policy which would allow passengers to bring knives on-board airplanes.[78] He is a supporter of same-sex marriage and is pro-choice.[79]

In 2017, Swalwell co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a House bill that is designed to allow U.S. states to enact laws requiring contractors to sign pledges promising not to boycott any goods from Israel and Israeli-occupied territories, or their contracts would be terminated.[80] In 2019, he criticized President Trump's trade war against China.[81]

Swalwell condemned the 2019 Turkish offensive into north-eastern Syria and called for possibly suspending Turkey's membership in NATO.[82]

Swalwell called for greater authenticity from politicians, saying that politicians should not insult each other publicly and then expect to have friendly relationships "backstage", and comparing the behavior of some politicians to a fake, entertainment-focused professional wrestling show.[83]

Personal life

Swalwell and his first wife are divorced. He married his second wife, Brittany Ann Watts, a sales director at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, in October 2016.[84] Together, the couple have a son, born in 2017,[85] and a daughter, born in 2018.[86]

In 2020, Swalwell purchased a home for $1.2 million in the historic neighborhood of Eckington, Washington, D.C..[87]

Electoral history

2010 Dublin, California City Council elections[88]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Eric Swalwell 6,468 36.8
Nonpartisan Don Biddle (incumbent) 5,380 30.6
Nonpartisan Kate Ann Scholz (incumbent) 3,638 20.7
Nonpartisan Shawn Costello 1,993 11.3
Total votes 17,573 100.0
California's 15th congressional district election, 2012[89]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Pete Stark (incumbent) 39,943 42.1
Democratic Eric Swalwell 34,347 36.0
No party preference Christopher "Chris" J. Pareja 20,618 21.7
Total votes 94,908 100.0
General election
Democratic Eric Swalwell 120,388 52.1
Democratic Pete Stark (incumbent) 110,646 47.9
Total votes 231,034 100.0
Democratic hold
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2014[90]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 99,756 69.8
Republican Hugh Bussell 43,150 30.2
Total votes 142,906 100.0
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2016[91]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 198,578 73.8
Republican Danny R. Turner 70,619 26.2
Total votes 269,197 100.0
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2018[92]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 177,989 73.0
Republican Rudy L. Peters Jr. 65,940 27.0
Total votes 243,929 100.0
United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2020[93]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Eric Swalwell (incumbent) 242,991 70.9
Republican Alison Hayden 99,710 29.1
Total votes 342,701 100.0


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