Eric Swalwell is passing the torch… back to the olds. The California congressman, who argued that a younger generation politicians is needed to aggressively tackle issues like gun violence, the student debt crisis and “climate chaos,” became the first candidate to exit the crowded Democratic primary field on Monday. His campaign was 91 days old.
“We were only running for one reason: to win and to make a difference, not a vanity project, not to write a book, not to make this about anyone other than the people,” Swalwell said at a press conference from his congressional district on Monday. “Being honest with ourselves, we had to look at how much money we were raising and where we were in the polls.”
Swalwell said Monday his campaign had raised about $850,000 — far less than the tens of millions several top tier candidates have posted this quarter alone — and he admitted “the polling wasn’t moving after the debates.” His announcement followed news he was at risk of not qualifying for the second set of debates. (Last week, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock edged ahead of Swalwell in a tight contest to secure the 20th and final spot on the July debate stage; the candidates were tied with an average of 1 percent in three polls, until Bullock hit 1 percent in a fourth poll.)
The congressman said he was satisfied his presence in the race may have spurred other candidates to support a plan to ban and buy back 15 million assault weapons in homes across the country, though. “Our three frontrunners that were on the stage with me” — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris — “said they supported that, so we’ve achieved that… but we have to be honest about our own candidacy’s viability.”
Swalwell, who represents the California’s East Bay, said he was “fired up” to finish some of the work he still has to do in the U.S. House and indicated he would seek a fifth term next year. He previously promised to “burn the boats” and not run for re-election if his presidential bid didn’t pan out. Swalwell will face a challenge from progressive Hayward city council member Aisha Wahab, who became one of the first Afghan-American women elected to U.S. public office last year. Wahab declared her intention to run for Swalwell’s seat in April.
He did not endorse any of the remaining Democratic candidates on Monday, joking instead that he was holding out for U.S. Women’s Soccer captain Megan Rapinoe. (The Swalwell seal-of-approval has not been particularly powerful in the past — in 2016, he was the only member of Congress to throw his support behind the candidacy of former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley.)
In the end, Swalwell said he expected “weaknesses will be flushed out and a leader will emerge” from the primary process. And, with that, the Democratic field officially thinned to just 23 candidates — for the moment.
Democratic primary voters are losing one white guy from California, but they may be gaining another. San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who previously said he was not be running for president in 2020, has reportedly told allies he will jump into the race on Tuesday.
“It’s rough out there,” Swalwell said, when asked if he had any advice for Steyer. “But welcome to the race, Tom.”