DUBLIN, Calif. -- Bay Area congressman Eric Swalwell became the first 2020 presidential hopeful to call it quits. He said he will not turn his focus to his congressional reelection campaign.
"Today ends our presidential campaign," Swalwell said from his campaign headquarters in Dublin, Calif., "But it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective shaped by the lives that have touched mine and the campaign through these last three months to bring that promise of America to all Americans."
Swalwell said he saw the writing on the wall following the most recent Democratic presidential primary debate. His fundraising and poll numbers were low and there were questions whether he would even qualify for the upcoming presidential debate.
"We wanted to be honest with ourselves and with our supporters," Swalwell explained when asked why he backed out. "If there was a viable chance, we would not be standing here today."
The three-term congressman made gun reform the central focus of his presidential campaign, an issue he says he will continue to fight for as he turns his attention to his congressional reelection bid.
Without Swalwell, there are now 23 Democratic candidates in the race. But there is still one new face that could emerge.
Bay Area billionaire Tom Steyer is reportedly considering jumping into the race, despite shutting down the idea in January.
Swalwell said he has not decided which candidate he plans to endorse, but said whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will need to be "tested" and able to stand up to President Trump, who he described as "the best political puncher ever in American politics."
Read his full statement below:
"I ran for President to win and make a difference in our great country - a difference on issues of the future such as finding cures for our deadliest and most debilitating diseases, taking on the student loan debt crisis, and ending gun violence. I promised my family, constituents, and supporters that I would always be honest about our chances. After the first Democratic presidential debate, our polling and fundraising numbers weren't what we had hoped for, and I no longer see a path forward to the nomination. My presidential campaign ends today," Swalwell said. "But this also is the start of a new passage for the issues on which our campaign ran. I entered this race determined to elevate the issue of gun violence, and at the debate, three top-tier candidates embraced my idea to ban and buy back every single assault weapon in America. Putting this idea and this larger issue of gun violence front and center in the Democratic policy discussion is an accomplishment, dedicated to the students, moms, and other activists who tirelessly demand action to save American lives."
"I thank my supporters and friends, my staff, and my family for making this journey possible. I'll never forget the people I met and lessons I learned while travelling around our great nation - especially in the communities most affected by gun violence," Swalwell continued. "Too many communities feel this pain. But in every community's grief, I see people who love one another and have inside themselves the grit to get things done to end gun violence once and for all. I will take those lessons back to Congress, serving my friends and neighbors in California's 15th District while using my seats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees to make our nation safer and uphold the rule of law for all Americans."