Capitol Alert

He told Joe Biden to ‘pass the torch.’ Now he’s dropping out of the Democratic primary

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, made headlines at the Democratic presidential debates when he told former Vice President Joe Biden that it was time to “pass the torch” to a younger candidate.

But now it’s Swalwell’s turn to pass the torch, as the four-term congressman announced Monday that he is dropping out of the primary and will instead seek a fifth term in Congress, the first of what Politico reports is an expected wave of Democratic candidate withdrawals from a crowded race.

“Today ends our presidential candidacy, but it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress for a new perspective ... to bring that promise of America to all Americans,” Swalwell said at a conference in Dublin.

Swalwell’s polling numbers never broke out from the crowded field of more than 20 candidates.

The congressman made gun control a central plank of his campaign.

“We must enact truly universal background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases, do more to take guns away from domestic abusers, push states to adopt gun violence restraining order laws, and remove weapons of war from our communities once and for all,” his campaign page said.

Swalwell said he was proud that he “moved the needle on the debate stage on an issue that I’m very passionate about:” an assault weapon buyback program that he said now has the support of frontrunners Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.

Swalwell declined to endorse a candidate in the primary, though he joked about supporting U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Co-Captain Megan Rapinoe, should she decide to run.

He acknowledged that the primary is “a crowded field,” and he called fellow Californian Harris “quite talented and quite popular.”

Swalwell said whoever wins is going to need to “punch back” against President Donald Trump.

“We need a candidate who’s tested, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.