It’s widely known that Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), 80, is Congress’ only known atheist. The outspoken politician has touted his non-belief on numerous occasions, serving as a champion to atheists and agnostics across America. But on Tuesday, Stark’s supporters were delivered a blow when he was defeated by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell.
The congressman, who was first elected in 1972 and who has been in office for the past 40 years, will no longer serve as a voice for secularists. Notably, Swalwell, a 31-years-old city councilman and county prosecutor, used Stark’s vote against the national motto (“In God We Trust”) to deride his opponent.
The Los Angeles Times has more about the heated race:
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.
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.
The soon-to-be former congressman is known for being among the most liberal House members. Over the years, aside from his atheism, he has pushed for defense cuts and for the creation of the a so-called “Department of Peace.” During George W. Bush’s presidency, Stark notably said that troops went to Iraq to “get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”
In the past, TheBlaze has reported about Stark’s public praise of the national atheist activist movement. The Friendly Atheist, a secular blogger who covers non-theism, describes some of the congressman’s attachments to the community:
Stark came out as a “non-theist” in 2007, making him the first sitting member of Congress to ever do so. In addition to recognizing the National Day of Reason on the floor of Congress, he spoke (via video) at the Reason Rally earlier this year. Stark had served in Congress since 1973, making him the longest-serving Congressperson currently from California (and fifth longest-serving overall).
With Stark poised to exit office, atheists are holding out for Kyrsten Sinema’s potential victory in Arizona. Sinema is a bi-sexual House candidate who, like the soon-to-exit congressman, is a non-theist.