Rep. Pete Stark, the dean of California's congressional delegation, was defeated Tuesday by a fellow Democrat, an upset made possible by the state's new "top-two" primary system.
Stark, D-Fremont, won office 40 years ago by beating a seasoned Democratic incumbent whom he painted as out of touch with the times and his constituents -- just as challenger Eric Swalwell, 31, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, described Stark, 80, this year in the newly drawn 15th Congressional District.
Elsewhere, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, hung onto his seat in a race against Republican challenger Ricky Gill, a recent law-school graduate from Lodi, in the newly drawn 9th District.
Even more of a nail-biter: the 7th District dead heat between Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, and Democrat Ami Bera, an Elk Grove physician taking his second run for the seat.
But incumbents John Garamendi, D-Fairfield, and Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, both held on against their challengers, though thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted.
In the 15th District, Swalwell's campaign looked like a longshot until April, when Stark accused Swalwell of accepting "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" from Dublin developers -- a charge Stark retracted and apologized for eight days later. Other gaffes Stark made also seemed to give momentum to Swalwell's contention that Stark had lost touch with his constituents, or even with reality.
By summer and fall, however, Stark, became more tight-lipped. And strong support from labor and Democratic entities and a barrage of direct mail helped Stark regain momentum.
In the 9th District, McNerney called Gill a novice propped up by his parents' business ties. Gill turned 25 -- Congress' constitutional minimum age -- in May, five days before graduating from law school. He hasn't taken the California State Bar exam, so can't practice law yet. He's had no full-time job other than being a partner in his parents' farming and RV park businesses, where his duties have been unclear.
But redistricting made McNerney, 61, a bit of an outsider: He moved from Pleasanton to Stockton this year to live within the new lines. Gill, a Lodi native, calls him a liberal Bay Area carpetbagger whose experience is worthless and has left the region with a stagnant economy, ongoing water problems for agriculture, high gas prices, soaring health care costs and a share of the nation's debt.
In the 3rd District, Garamendi beat Republican Kim Vann, a Colusa County supervisor from Arbuckle. In the 10th District, Denham beat Democrat Jose Hernandez, a former NASA astronaut from Stockton.
Elsewhere, early returns showed Democrat Jared Huffman of San Rafael trading his "assemblyman" title for "congressman-elect" by beating Republican Daniel Roberts of Tiburon. Huffman would succeed Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael, in the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District, reaching from the Golden Gate Bridge to Oregon.
In other Bay Area races, Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; George Miller, D-Martinez; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Mike Honda, D-Campbell; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, all breezed to easy victories over their challengers.