Swalwell becomes first major Democrat to drop out of 2020 race

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary on Monday to seek reelection to his House seat.

Swalwell, a four-term congressman, announced his decision at a press conference at his congressional office in Dublin, Calif. He is the first major candidate to drop out of the race, which now has 24 candidates.

But perhaps not for long. Tom Steyer, the California financier behind the “Need to Impeach” campaign, is reportedly getting ready to enter the Democratic primary.

“Today ends our presidential campaign, but it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective shaped by the lives that have touched mine and the campaign throughout these last three months,” Swalwell said at the press conference.

He had remained near the bottom of polls since announcing his presidential campaign in April on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and only narrowly edged out Montana Gov. Steve Bullock for a spot in the June primary debate. Swalwell’s decision to drop out came after his campaign canceled two events last week in New Hampshire.

Rep. Eric Swalwell at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22. (Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

At 38, Swalwell was the second youngest candidate in the race. His campaign sought to portray him as a representative of the younger generation and emphasized his support for strong gun-control measures. At the June debate, he suggested former Vice President Joe Biden was too old to be president, telling the 76-year-old frontrunner to “pass the torch.”

“We can’t be a forward-looking party if we look to the past for our leadership,” Swalwell said at the debate.

Swalwell has represented a suburban district in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2013. Candidates like Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., have ridden their campaigns from near obscurity to national name recognition. Swalwell, however, wasn’t able to break through in the crowded primary.

As a member of the newly empowered Democratic majority in the House, he has some choice committee assignments, including the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Bullock is likely to earn a spot in the July debate, hosted by CNN, now that Swalwell is out of the race. The Montana governor had been polling slightly higher than Swalwell in the weeks before the congressman dropped out, meaning Swalwell might not have made it to the second debate.


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