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Swalwell won’t write off the chances of a Democratic candidate winning Alabama

Eric Swalwell stands by a window before a crowd
Congressman Eric Swalwell speaks to a crowd in Birmingham, Alabama. (Evan Mealins/APR)

You may not have heard of him, but he’s hopeful for his chances in the 2020 presidential election.

Congressman Eric Swalwell was recently announced as one of many candidates to reach the Democratic presidential debate stage. Thursday afternoon, the California representative made a stop at Birmingham District Brewing Co. to meet with the Alabama Young Democrats.

He was introduced by Terri Chapman, executive vice president of the Alabama Young Democrats, who called Swalwell a “true young Democrat” — a label which the 38-year-old lives up to — before giving the floor to the candidate.

“You gave me hope,” Swalwell said. “You gave the whole country hope in December 2017.”

The crowd cheered. The special election of Sen. Doug Jones shined a light on a Democratic base in Alabama that gives more incentive for candidates like Swalwell to campaign in Alabama.

“I don’t want to write off the chances of a Democratic president winning in [Alabama],” Swalwell later said.

During his 20 minute speech, he rattled off the various hot-button issues that beset the country: student loan debt, the healthcare crisis, women’s health and abortion rights and most notably gun violence, the central issue of Swalwell’s campaign.

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“We were in this cycle of grief, loss, anger, ‘thoughts and prayers’ from Washington — as an alibi for doing nothing,” Swalwell said.

The crowd of roughly 50 people, Young Democrats and Democrats young at heart alike, stayed silent, some nodding in agreement. The breaking point, Swalwell said, was the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The reaction to the Parkland tragedy created momentum for the discussion of gun ownership and violence, and now Swalwell is pushing for serious reforms. He spoke about his plan to implement universal background checks, to invest in additional safety in schools and to ban and buy back assault-style rifles.

“I’m running for president because I believe in you. I believe in the activists that showed up [after Parkland]. I believe in the new Congress that we have that we can say ‘enough is enough,’ and that we love our kids, and we love each other more than we love our guns,” he said.

Richard Newton, a Birmingham attorney, said he was impressed by Swalwell and specifically by how much he cared about and has thought about rural America. When answering questions from the crowd, Swalwell mentioned expanding rural broadband and investing in education and infrastructure in rural America.

The Rural Caucus Secretary of the Alabama Young Democrats Justin Cosby said he likes Swalwell. However, he has some difficulty when considering the electability of the Congressman.

“Because at the end of the day, my question is, ‘Is this candidate able to beat Donald Trump one-on-one in the election process?’” Cosby said. “Poor electability is what caused Cosby, who was a political science major in college, to jump ship on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and support Hillary in the Democratic primaries.”

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At the end of his speech, Swalwell spoke about keeping Jones in his Senate seat with the same intensity he spoke of seeking the Democratic nomination.  

“Here’s my pledge: make me the nominee, and you’ll get sick and tired of seeing me because I’m going to come back and back and back to help us protect Doug Jones,” Swalwell, who was speaking without a microphone, said before his voice was muffled by claps and cheers from the crowd.


Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected].

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