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California Rep. Eric Swalwell enters 2020 presidential race with focus on guns

Swalwell, best known for speaking out on Russia, is the latest candidate to join a field that is expected to be the largest ever.
Image: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on July 10, 2018.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on July 10, 2018.Alex Edelman / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — California Rep. Eric Swalwell will become the latest Democrat to enter the 2020 presidential race Monday evening in an appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

"I see a country in quicksand, unable to solve problems and threats from abroad, unable to make life better for people here at home. Nothing gets done," Swalwell says in a clip released early by the show. "I'm ready to solve these problems -- I'm running for president of the United States."

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"It's official," he adds to cheers from the audience. "Boy did it feel good to say that."

"The Late Show" released the clip on Twitter a few hours before the show airs. Swalwell also filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to officially set up a presidential campaign committee.

Swalwell, a 38-year-old member of the House Intelligence Committee, is a prominent voice on questions of Russian interference in U.S. elections and other investigations into the Trump administration’s dealings with foreign powers.

Swalwell has also made gun control a focus of his career and is due to hold a town hall Tuesday in Parkland, Florida, the site of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cameron Kasky, a survivor of the shooting who became active in the March For Our Lives movement for gun safety, was the congressman’s guest at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address and Swalwell wrote an op-ed last year saying he was inspired by the movement.

Swalwell, who was the only congressman to endorse Martin O’Malley in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, is the 15th major candidate to the enter the 2020 race and will have a steep hill to climb since he is largely unknown at the moment.

The Californian was elected to the House in 2012 after defeating former Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, a 40-year-incumbent, in a bitter primary battle. Stark refused to debate his upstart challenger, leading Swalwell to hire an actor to impersonate him and speak only in actual Stark quotes while wearing fake bushy grey eyebrows.

As Swalwell has already reminded first-in-the-nation caucus-goers, he was born in Sac City, Iowa, before his family settled in California. He attended the University of Maryland for both undergraduate and law school before working on Capitol Hill and then returning to California to become a prosecutor and hold other local offices.

Swalwell has been a regular presence in Iowa and other early primary and caucus states and has been hiring staff to prepare for a potential presidential bid.

"The reason I would do it is because I have lived a life where I saw hard work paid off for my parents so that I could be the first in my family to go to college,” Swalwell said MSNBC last month. “Today, I have two kids under two. I'm paying off just under $100,000 of student loan debt. I know why people work hard, I know what they expect it to add up to. But when I look in different neighborhoods and different floors of different buildings I see that promise of America not reaching all Americans.”

“I believe I'm a generational candidate who can bring inventiveness and optimism to a city, a place that's very pessimistic and I have experience,” Swalwell continued. “In the last seven years particularly the last few on Intelligence Committee our democracy has been on the ropes. I know who our threats are from the outside. I know who was attacking the rule of law on the inside and I'll stand firmly and defend it.”