“My question is, why?” says Aimee Allison, the Oakland-based founder of the national organization She the People, which is dedicated to empowering women of color in politics and hosted a presidential forum in April. “You have a California congressman who is doing a pretty good job right now trolling Trump,” Allison told me, “and I thought, hey, we need you in Congress to keep doing that. And that’s where I think he’s really excelling.”

Swalwell, 38, has made combating gun violence a centerpiece of his campaign and argues that his youth—he’s a young father still paying off a mountain of student-loan debt—will help him connect with the voters the Democratic Party needs to inspire to turn out next year. At last month’s debate, he made a bid for a viral moment when he told Biden to “pass the torch” to the next generation of leaders. But Swalwell, like most others on the stage alongside the former vice president, was overshadowed by Harris, his California colleague. His back-of-the-pack standing didn’t budge in the initial round of post-debate polls.

“Everyone just assumes he’s trying to establish some name ID in order to run for U.S. Senate,” one well-connected California Democrat who is unaffiliated in the presidential race told me, repeating a bit of speculation that two other Democratic operatives also mentioned on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. The state’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, just won reelection to another term but is 86 years old. The other seat would open up after 2020 if Harris, who surged in the polls after her debate performance, wins election as president or serves as vice president.