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Pete Stark, veteran Calif. congressman, defeated by 31-year-old

November 7, 2012 |  2:41 am

Pete Stark, Fremont's 80-year-old dean of California's congressional delegation, has been defeated by a fellow Democrat, a 31-year-old city councilman from nearby Dublin, according to the Associated Press.

Eric Swalwell's campaign against Stark, one of Congress’ most outspoken liberals, put the incumbent in the toughest campaign he had faced since he was elected in 1972. Stark, a multimillionaire former banker, is fifth in seniority in the 435-member House.

Stark faced a tough race because of two big political changes in California: the political map drawn by an independent citizens commission that put him in a new district a bit less liberal, and the state's new top-two primary system that set up the Democrat-versus-Democrat clash.

FULL RESULTS: California races

Stark finished ahead of Swalwell in the three-candidate primary, 42.1% to 36.2%. Swalwell is a deputy district attorney who was elected in 2010 to the city council of Dublin, a suburb of 46,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was an intern to former Rep. Ellen Tauscher in 2001-02.

Stark first gained national attention as the "hippie banker" who, during the Vietnam War, put a peace symbol on the headquarters of the bank he founded in the East Bay. He was an architect of landmark legislation that allowed workers to extend health coverage for a time after leaving their jobs and required emergency rooms to screen and stabilize anyone who showed up at their doors, regardless of their ability to pay.

He also played an important role in developing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama's healthcare law. He also has called for cutting the defense budget and creating a Department of Peace.

His legendary outbursts probably cost him the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee when Democrats were in the majority.

Stark once called a Republican lawmaker "a whore for the insurance industry" and another a "fruitcake." During the George W. Bush presidency, he said that troops were being sent to Iraq to "get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Swalwell has sought to highlight Stark's flammable personality, saying it has contributed to Congress' sorry image.

-- Richard Simon in Washington

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