Fortney ‘Pete’ Stark, Jr.

Former U.S. Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr., died on Friday, Jan. 24. Stark served in the House of Representatives for 40 years, from 1973 to 2013. During his last 20 years in Congress, Stark represented California’s 13th Congressional District, which included Alameda. Redistricting, which began in 2011, redrew Stark’s District as the 15th District. Eric Swalwell defeated Stark in the 2012 election.

Stark served in the United States Air Force and held an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as an M.B.A. from the University of California. He borrowed money to open a Security National Bank in Walnut Creek in 1963. He pioneered the idea of offering free checking accounts. 

Stark came from a Republican family. He became a Democrat to show his opposition to the Vietnam War. He posted a peace sign on top of his bank and printed peace signs on his bank’s checks. 

Stark entered Congress in 1973, where he is remembered for his sharp tongue. He championed health care for all and therein lies his legacy. 

Stark’s efforts created the 1986 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, that everyone remembers as COBRA. Thanks to Stark, employees can remain on their employer’s health insurance plan for a time after they leave their jobs. Stark also helped pen President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 

Stark retired to his Maryland home in 2013, where he passed away. He leaves his wife, Deborah, seven children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.