From Josh Richman on the Political Blotter blog:

Supporters of Eric Swalwell, the Democratic insurgent who's challenging Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, are up in arms about a recent Stark mailer (displayed at the bottom of this article) that depicts Swalwell in a cup of tea - a la the tea party. Here are some excerpts:

"Who is really behind Eric Swalwell? On the doorstep, at meetings, driving this rookie city councilman's campaign? Tea Party supporters. They've given money, given energy and given life to the Swalwell campaign - and they'll succeed unless we stop them."

"Campaign finance reports show that over $86,000 of Eric Swalwell's contributions come from Republicans. Swalwell claims he's no conservative, but the evidence speaks for itself. Republicans and their corporate allies in the pharmaceutical world like Amgen and Pfizer are excited about young Swalwell because they think he's their cup of tea."

"As reported in a respected East Bay newspaper, Dublin City Councilman Eric Swalwell took over $15,000 from a contractor and voted to give them a no-bid contract. Swalwell's actions would have been illegal in some East Bay cities."


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Ellis Goldberg, president of the TriValley Democratic Club, is incensed. "I have not endorsed either candidate nor has the club, but I feel this defamation of one of my club members has to be answered," he wrote in an e-mail Wednesday night. "Both candidates are TVDC members, Eric has been active for many years.

Aside from being a long-time Tri-Valley Dems member, Swalwell interned for former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo - a Blue Dog, but certainly no Tea Party darling; also, he chaired the 2008 TriValley United Democratic Campaign to get Democrats elected to local and state offices. Nothing he has said on his website, in interviews or elsewhere indicates tea party policies. He is a Democrat, not some zombified "Manchurian Candidate" for conservatives.

But that's not exactly what Stark's mailer said. And without a doubt, there are conservatives who want to see Swalwell beat Stark.

Put yourself in the shoes of any Republican - tea party-sympathetic or otherwise - living in this district: Who would you vote for, with only these two candidates on the ballot? Stark and his supporters are proud that he's one of the most doggedly liberal members of Congress, and it's safe to assume anyone with even a streak of conservatism would vote against him. That's been part of Swalwell's campaign strategy from the get-go - appealing to a broader spectrum of voters than Stark can. If anyone to the right of Pete Stark is deemed a tea partier, there are a whooooooole lot of Democrats and independents out there who'll cry foul.

And wouldn't out-of-district and out-of-state conservative interests who want to see Stark gone contribute to the campaign of anyone who could make that happen? Of course they would. Swalwell, at a significant fundraising disadvantage to the incumbent, would be a fool to turn that money away.

As for the pay-to-play accusation, we've discussed that East Bay Express story here.

Swalwell's campaign also noted today that a photograph included in the mailer - depicting Swalwell holding up an Etch-A-Sketch on which a GOP elephant has been drawn - was doctored. Here's the original:

Lisa Tucker, Swalwell's campaign manager, said they believe Stark's campaign took it from a Facebook page.

"It just misrepresents, it implies Eric drew that elephant on the Etch-a-Sketch and he did not," she said. "There was no reason to take a personal photo of Eric and doctor it like that."