15th Congressional District

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House Vet Pete Stark in Tough Re-Election Fight; Videos: Stark on the Warpath

By Cyrus Musiker

Twenty-term incumbent Pete Stark has a well developed get-out-the-vote operation, but his opponent, Eric Swalwell, is capitalizing on Stark's reported negative attributes. (Photo: Cy Musiker)

Twenty-term incumbent Pete Stark has a well developed get-out-the-vote operation, but his opponent, Eric Swalwell, is capitalizing on Stark's reported negative attributes. (Photo: Cy Musiker)

Pete Stark has specialized in health care during much of his 40 years in Congress. He’s helped pass some of the nation’s most far-reaching laws in that area, including the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare” to some); a law that says emergency rooms are required to admit patients who can’t pay; and COBRA, which lets workers and their families temporarily remain covered under an employer’s health plan even after leaving their job.

Stark says he considers himself a health care “expert.”

“But there’s lots to be done,” he adds. “I would like to work until we see that every resident of the United States has access to health care regardless of their income or health status.”

In a normal year, voters would probably have granted him yet another term to do that work. But in this election cycle, he has to fight to be re-elected because of the state’s “Top Two” primary system and newly drawn congressional districts that have changed business as usual.

“In a Democrat vs. Democrat race, there’s a very reasonable chance [Stark] could end up out of Congress.”

Stark is now running in the redrawn but mostly Democratic 15th Congressional District — a sprawl of suburban cities, stretching from Hayward to Pleasanton, to the south and east of Oakland. In June he finished ahead of his Democratic primary opponent;  had it been a traditional primary, Stark would be facing almost certain-victory over a weak Republican in November.

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