Who is Eric Swalwell? Meet the latest California Democrat running for president

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speaks at a Politics & Eggs event, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. Swalwell announced in April he's running for the Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speaks at a Politics & Eggs event, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. Swalwell announced in April he's running for the Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., isn’t the biggest name in the 2020 race for the White House. And he isn’t the best known Californian running. That title belongs to Sen. Kamala Harris.

But Swalwell qualified Tuesday for the Democratic presidential primary debates after reaching at least 1 percent in three polls recognized by the Democratic National Committee. That gives his candidacy, and the claims he makes, greater relevance.

The 38-year-old East Bay congressman is among the youngest in the field of 20 candidates and has taken perhaps the strongest stance on gun control.

PolitiFact California will fact-check Swalwell, as we’ve done and will continue to do with Harris, during the 2020 primary campaign. First, however, we examined the congressman’s biography and where he stands on key national issues.

Born in Iowa

Swalwell was born in Iowa, where he’s made numerous visits as a politician and where his father was a police chief in the small town of Sac City in the 1980s.

His family, which he's described as all Republican, eventually moved to Dublin, Calif., a suburb east of San Francisco.

He started his professional career as an Alameda County prosecutor and served one term on the Dublin City Council. Swalwell and his wife, Brittany, have two young children.

In 2012, he ran for Congress and shocked many when he beat out Rep. Pete Stark, then a 40-year Democratic incumbent.

Focus on gun control

Swalwell has made gun control an intense focus early in his run for president. He held his first major campaign event in Parkland, Florida where he met with the families of those killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. Seventeen people were killed and 14 more were injured in the shooting.

"Throughout my campaign, there will be other issues I talk about. On health care, education and climate change," the congressman said at the Parkland event. "My pledge to you tonight is that this issue (of gun control) comes first. And until it comes first, we’re not going to end gun violence."

He has called for a mandatory national ban and buyback of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons; supported universal background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases; and said more must be done to take guns away from domestic abusers and to require states to adopt gun violence restraining order laws.

Trump critic

Swalwell has been a strong critic of President Trump’s immigration stances and foreign policy. He’s been a frequent guest on cable news discussing investigations into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign and he’s called on Congress to continue investigating Trump’s actions outlined in the Mueller report.

"I wouldn’t say impeachment is off the table," he told the ABC News podcast "The Investigation," in April.

Also during his time in Congress, Swalwell has emphasized concerns on income inequality and rising student loan debt, speaking openly about the nearly $100,000 he owes on his own loans.

"I see a country in quicksand unable to solve problems and threats from abroad. Unable to make life better for people here at home. Nothing gets done," Swalwell said on ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’, where he announced his run for president in early April. "I talk to teachers, truckers and nurses and they feel like they’re just running in place and it’s not adding up to anything. I talk to people who are just like me, who are the first to go to college in their family. They’ve got a lot of college debt, can’t buy a home, can’t start a business."

We’ve taken a look at where the 2020 candidate stands on issues that will be prominent in the campaign.

Health care

Swalwell is a supporter of Medicare for All. In an article for NBC News, he wrote "So, no more half-steps. Let's pass coverage for all today, and spend money to make sure there are cures for all tomorrow." On his campaign website, Swalwell promises within the first 100 days as president, he will "go big and be bold to work with Congress" on a health care guarantee.

Immigration

He has supported legislation in the U.S. Senate pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. He opposes the president’s border wall. In early January, during the federal government shutdown, he appeared on CNN and said, "We’re never going to go for that. The American people don’t want that."

Climate change

Swalwell is against proposed federal rollbacks on energy efficiency and renewable energy. In a Facebook post in early April, he wrote, "Climate change is an urgent crisis threatening our environment, our public health and safety, and future economic well-being." The congressman also opposes the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. He was a co-sponsor on the resolution against the move.

Past fact checks

PolitiFact National has fact-checked him twice so far. It rated Half True his claim this month that the first piece of legislation that Republicans passed in Congress in 2017 "made it easier for the mentally ill to purchase guns." He was correct that they passed a resolution that eliminated barriers for certain disabled individuals to buy guns, but it wasn’t the first law passed in 2017.

In November, PolitiFact rated another claim by Swalwell Half True when he exaggerated the number of troops the Trump administration deployed to the border.

He may be a long-shot 2020 candidate. But Swalwell’s inclusion in the Democratic debates will elevate his message on gun control. We’ll continue to fact-check the congressman throughout his White House run and beyond.

Is there a statement by Rep. Eric Swalwell that you would like us to fact-check? Email us at [email protected], or contact us on Twitter or Facebook.

PolitiFact California intern Sami Soto contributed research and writing to this report