Go Big. Be Bold. Go Home. Eric Swalwell Ends Quixotic Campaign. 

Plus a busy week for Alameda, with rent cap and charter reform.

click to enlarge Rep. Eric Swalwell announcing the end of his quest for the presidency.

Rep. Eric Swalwell announcing the end of his quest for the presidency.

Eric Swalwell's presidential campaign began on a sound stage inside the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City and ended 91 days later in a small union hall in Dublin. After canceling two days of Fourth of July events in New Hampshire last week, on Monday afternoon Swalwell became the first of a large Democratic primary field to drop out of the race for president.

"After the first Democratic presidential debate, our polling and fundraising numbers weren't what we have hoped for, and I no longer see a path forward to the nomination," Swalwell said. "My presidential campaign ends today."

The Democratic Party's requirements for qualifying for future debates weighed heavily on Swalwell's decision to end his campaign. Swalwell made the debate stage in Miami last month solely because he gained at least 1 percent in three party-sanctioned polls. The second requirement, which would have clinched his inclusion in the debates was 65,000 individuals donors. The threshold for the next debates is now polling of two percent and 130,000 donors, and candidates must attain both requirements.

During the June 27 debate, Swalwell raised his profile by telling former vice president Joe Biden to "pass the torch" to the younger generation. But the exchange did little to bolster Swalwell's standing, he told reporters Monday, leading to his decision to pull the plug on his bid for the White House.

Polling was a constant problem throughout. Swalwell's campaign never gained more than 1 percent in any poll and often failed to register any support. He revealed that his campaign only received contributions from roughly 21,000 donors, a number far below even the requirement set for the June debates. Swalwell's presidential campaign raised about $850,000 since April, he said. A full accounting of his campaign finance reports will be available after July 15.

Any leftover proceeds from Swalwell's presidential campaign can be rolled over to his re-election campaign for the 15th Congressional District, which he confirmed Monday. Hayward Councilmember Aisha Wahab announced her campaign for the 15th District just days after Swalwell began his presidential campaign and indicated he would not run for his seat in Congress.

But in the three months since, Swalwell has hedged on his future strategy several times, telling reporters he had until early December to make a decision before the filing deadline for candidates in the March 2020 primary. Wahab said Monday that she is still weighing her options whether to continue her congressional campaign.

At the moment, Wahab is the only credible candidate in the congressional race. At one point, the early race also included state Sen. Bob Wieckowski. But he dropped out last May, just three weeks into his campaign. Instead, Wieckowski is running for the now-vacant seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Wieckowski's abrupt exit may have been the first hint to East Bay politicos that Swalwell's early exit from the presidential campaign would be far sooner than later.


Alameda lowers cap on annual rent increases

Alameda renters scored a major legislative victory last week when the Alameda City Council approved an ordinance that places a cap on annual rent increase. The change amounts to a reduction in annual increases from up to 5 percent under a previous ordinance to 2.8 percent for many Alameda renters, starting on Sept. 1.

The council's decision ties annual rent increases to 70 percent of the Consumer Price Index for the San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward region. The index for April pegged the figure at 4 percent, meaning Alameda landlords are allowed to raise rents by 2.8 percent for the next year.

The ordinance also allows landlords who forego some annual rent increases to "bank" them for future years. But the council, after more than an hour of debate, added restrictions to the banking of rent increases. Under the ordinance, landlords may set aside up to 8 percent worth of rent increases, but can only increase rents above the amount otherwise allowed by 3 percent during any given year, and not in consecutive years. In addition, landlords can only use banked rent increases three times during the life of tenancy. Banked increases do not carry over to the next tenant, or if the property is sold.

It is unclear how many landlords will make use of the ability to bank rent increases — essentially lowering rents — when they may now view their ability to raise annual rents as being diminished by almost half.

The vote represents a partial validation of an ill-fated ballot measure backed by the Alameda Renters Coalition in 2016 that sought to cap rent increases to 65 percent of the Consumer Price Index.

Members of that group said they were pleased by the council's decision after more than three years of continued advocacy on behalf of island renters. "The goal has always been just to have a consistent percentage without displacing renters," said Catherine Pauling, a member of the Alameda Renters Coalition Steering Committee. "We want landlords to have a fair return on their investment and for renters to have a stable home."

Alameda's previously rent stabilization ordinance set a threshold of 5 percent on annual rent increases. The number, though, was not a rent cap. Landlords seeking to raise rents over the 5 percent threshold have been required to petition the city's Rent Review Advisory Committee. However, the board's decisions are non-binding.

"Tenants have put up with 5 percent increases for four years and that been a heavy burden," said William Rowen, an Alameda renter.

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