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Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down There's no such thing as 'absolute immunity' for former presidents The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden strategizes with Senate Dems MORE’s (D-Calif.) decision to end his short-lived presidential campaign after just three months on the trail served as an acknowledgement that his message was not connecting with voters or donors — and that his own seat in Congress may be at risk.
California Democrats are buzzing about Aisha Wahab, a progressive city councilwoman in Hayward who said she would run for Swalwell’s seat the day after he announced his bid for president.
Wahab, 31, would become the first person of Afghan descent to serve in Congress. Democratic strategists in California said she represents a real challenge to Swalwell in an East Bay district where only 34 percent of the population is white, 30 percent are of Asian descent and nearly a quarter are Hispanic.
Swalwell is not the only presidential candidate with an eye on their day jobs. A prominent state senator has already entered the race for Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe perfect Democratic running mate for DeSantis? Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition MORE’s (D) seat, which covers part of Oahu and Hawaii’s less populated islands. And several prominent women officeholders are considering bids for Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonUkraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia Gallego leads congressional delegation to Ukraine Bill seeks to aid families of Black WWII veterans deprived of GI benefits MORE’s (D-Mass.) seat.
The candidates circling those House seats are unlikely to bow out if the incumbents sideline their presidential ambitions. They can make the case to voters that the incumbents were more focused on their own careers than on the districts they represent.
“At a certain point, every candidate in this race will at some point have to conduct a reality check and do an assessment of whether he or she can break out in such a large pack. And for those candidates who would have to give up their day job in order to stay in the race, or for those who just may flat-out run out of cash, that decision will often come sooner rather than later,” said Brian Brokaw, a California-based Democratic strategist who has been watching Swalwell’s district.
Politicians who run for president and then run for reelection when their campaigns don’t pan out frequently have difficult times convincing voters they care about their current jobs.
Last year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) lost his bid for reelection, three years after ending his run for the White House. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHow Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE (R-Texas) narrowly kept his seat in a state that went for President TrumpDonald TrumpDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors Former Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Overnight Health Care — Senators unveil pandemic prep overhaul MORE by a wider margin. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) lost the Democratic primary for his own seat two years after a failed presidential run, though he won a final term as an Independent.
“Seth’s got a good record. I think he’s been a good congressman. But the question is, do people think he hasn’t been paying attention to the district because he’s running for president,” said Scott Ferson, a Massachusetts Democratic strategist who advised Moulton in 2014.
Making matters more complicated for the members of Congress seeking the White House is that all three have clashed with Democratic leadership, both in their home states and in Washington.
Swalwell won his seat in Congress by ousting Rep. Pete Stark (D), the dean of California’s congressional delegation when Swalwell beat him in 2012.
Moulton won his seat in 2014 by ousting another long-serving member of the Democratic caucus, Rep. John TierneyJohn F. TierneyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Stanley McChrystal endorses Moulton for president MORE (D). He angered local Democrats in 2018 when he led an attempted coup against Democratic leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse leaders unveil bill to boost chip industry, science competitiveness with China Pelosi says she will run for reelection in 2022 Hoyer says 'significant' version of Build Back Better will pass this year MORE’s bid to win back the Speaker’s gavel.
The most significant threats Moulton faces come from women who are considering mounting a challenge. Several Massachusetts political watchers pointed to state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D) and Kim Driscoll (D), the mayor of Salem, as potential rivals.
"The biggest threat to Seth Moulton keeping that congressional seat is a woman running against him. He opened the door when he opposed Nancy Pelosi," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. "Kim Driscoll is somebody who a lot of people think could run, should run, and would win if she did."
“If Nancy Pelosi wanted to have some payback, that would be a concern," Ferson said.
In Hawaii, where political memories are long, Gabbard beat out a crowded field that included former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (D) to win her seat. She angered some Democrats with her opposition to same-sex marriage, a stand she has since reversed. And she roiled many by visiting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad at the height of a bloody civil war, in which Assad had been accused of war crimes.
Kai Kahele, a state senator first elected to succeed his father in 2016, raised a quarter of a million dollars in his bid for her seat. He has taken aim at Gabbard over her comments downplaying special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE’s findings.
At least a few 2020 presidential candidate whose seats are up for reelection next year have kept others from entering their races. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDespite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over Small ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (D-N.J.) will also have to run for reelection next year if his presidential hopes do not pan out; he has until March 30, nearly a month after the critical Super Tuesday contests, to file for reelection in New Jersey.
Only one candidate, progressive activist Lisa McCormick (D), has filed to run against Booker in the Democratic primary. McCormick took a surprisingly strong 38 percent of the vote against Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenators huddle on Russia sanctions as tensions escalate Schumer requests Senate briefing on Ukraine amid Russia tensions Democrats face scaled-back agenda after setbacks MORE (D) in the 2018 Democratic primary, though Menendez faced ethics issues that might have made him a more attractive opponent than Booker.