Lynn Woolsey will retire, so let the race begin

As widely expected, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma – a paragon of progressive politics, and so a longtime burr in the saddle of conservatives near and far – announced today she’ll be retiring at the end of her current term.

Supporters heaped copious praise upon the 10-term Congresswoman today.

From Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future:

“Today’s announcement from progressive champion, Lynn Woolsey, marks the culmination of a distinguished Congressional career. For two decades Congresswoman Woolsey has worked tirelessly on behalf of America’s working class families and advocated for some of our nation’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised.”

From Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List:

“The entire EMILY’s List community thanks Representative Lynn Woolsey for her leadership and service to her district, her constituents and the state of California. We wish her the very best. Rep. Woolsey has had a remarkable career, rising from a single mother on welfare to a ten-term leader in Congress. She has been an outstanding advocate for women and families, and a leader in increasing access to higher education. With over a year left in her term, we look forward to her continued leadership. While it will be hard to fill the void left behind by Rep. Woolsey, EMILY’s List will work to keep this seat in the hands of a progressive Democratic woman.”

UPDATE @ 10:40 A.M. TUESDAY: From President Barack Obama:

“A fierce advocate for children, families and the people of the North Bay, Lynn Woolsey has never forgotten the people who sent her to Congress for nearly two decades. She is a leader on progressive causes and a fighter for working families, and we will miss her passionate voice in Congress. Michelle and I wish her well and join the people of California in thanking her for her many years of service.”

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is a partner in many ways. I thank her for her years of service on behalf of the people of Northern California and all Americans.

“She is a valued leader of the Progressive Caucus, and a tireless voice for the most vulnerable among us. Her dedication to peace, to ending our senseless wars, to the creation of a public option, and to women and children is inspiring to Members of Congress and to her constituents alike. I look forward to working with her through the rest of this Congress and will wish her a fulfilling retirement.”

Woolsey, 73, now represents all of Marin County and most of Sonoma County, but redistricting could change all that. Woolsey fired off an angry statement earlier this month when the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s first draft Congressional map showed her district being narrowed and elongated along the state’s North Coast to stretch all the way from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

Woolsey didn’t endorse anyone to succeed her, but rather said she’ll leave it to the 6th Congressional District’s voters to decide who’s best for the job. Among Democrats likely to vie to replace her are Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams of San Rafael; and progressive activist Normon Solomon of Inverness.

Of those four, only Evans’ home would fall outside the newly drawn district according to this draft – not that living within the district is a constitutional requirement.

Read the full statement, as prepared, that Woolsey made this afternoon during a news conference at her home, after the jump…

“With you by my side, with your support allowing me to speak strong and fight hard, we have made a powerful difference.

“We have made important direct investments here at home – saving Two Rock Coast Guard Base from closure twice; securing the funding to make Hamilton Airfield the first successful BRAC closure in the nation; authorizing legislation to launch a school breakfast pilot program in Santa Rosa; and much more. Tomorrow, I will go to Skaggs Island for a ceremony marking the official transfer of this former Navy facility into the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. And it was a bill we passed in Congress a few years ago that made the transfer – and the protection of these precious wetlands — possible.

“Even as I’ve focused on these local investments, I know that the people of Marin and Sonoma counties expected me to be engaged on national and international issues too. On that front, nothing has animated me more than my opposition to the wars our country has been fighting for nearly the last 10 years. They are a moral blight on the nation, and I have not been afraid to say so.

“Because of your support, I was the first member of Congress to call for our troops to be brought home, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t pressed this point. I was the first to force a vote on ending the war in Iraq, and I would not keep quiet even when the leaders of my party might have preferred that I did. But the thing is: I don’t work for them, I work for you.

“When we started this anti-war struggle, we didn’t have public opinion or political momentum on our side. But because we were true to our conscience…because we had the courage of our convictions…because we would not be silenced…the tide eventually turned. In just a few years time, President Bush’s military occupation of Iraq became deeply unpopular. And it’s true without question that our leadership helped hasten the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

“We have to continue to speak up, and we will — because we still have 100,000 men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan. I believe the same relentlessness, passion and tenacity on the part of the pro-peace community will eventually end that war as well.

“Most of all, we must never give up. We must, without hesitation or apology, fight for what we know is right.

“We haven’t won every battle over the years, but we have fought valiantly — always holding fast to our principles, never compromising our values.

“As much as we’ve accomplished, of course there are mountains we haven’t climbed, challenges still to be met.

“But I will turn 75 years old just before the next Election Day, and after two decades of service to this district, it will be time for me to move on.

“And so, with enormous gratitude but not an ounce of regret, I am announcing that I will not run for re-election in 2012. I will retire at the end of my current term.

“I leave it to you, the people of the Sixth District, to decide who should take up the mantle and continue this important work.

“It’s been such a privilege to serve. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, senile columnist

    Good riddance!

  • John W

    Not that I would wish for a GOP takeover of the seat, but it would be quite funny if some logger from up North ends up representing the people of Marin.

  • Elwood

    For Marin it would only work if he sang:

    “I’m a lumberjack, I’m OK,

    I work in the woods all day!”

    And so on.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Progressive Democrats: Merchants of Fear
    Lynn W. deserves respect for having risen high from rough beginnings. But rather than spreading the message “If I can do it, so can you,” as a shrewd Progressive she instead exploited the fears, anxieties and ignorance of the down and out. Rather than trying one’s hardest to improve one’s lot in life, Progressives say it’s hopeless. The Left loves the struggling classes; it loves to watch them struggle. The Progressive message reads: “The Government is your best friend. It can help all of you. But the Rich and Greedy in Corporate America won’t share their wealth with you. Only the Government can force the Selfish Rich to share their luck and fortune. It’s the Progressives who will work hard to force the Wealthy to share with you, the struggling middle and lower classes.”

  • Elwood

    RR tells it like it is!

  • John W

    Maybe we can take the progressive left and the anarchist right and give them each their own state, so those of us who think between the 30 yard lines can work things out like adults.

  • Elwood

    Careful, John W!

    You’re starting to sound a little bit like toothsucker.