The list of people interested in replacing Rep. Lynn Woolsey if she decides not to seek re-election in 2012 gets longer with each passing day.
The ballots electing Woolsey to her 10th term in office had barely been counted when she disclosed that she is seriously considering retirement from political life. Woolsey, 73, says she will make a final decision by June.
Almost immediately, prospective candidates began queuing up. So far the list includes Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams; Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane; and West Marin author and progressive political activist Norman Solomon.
One of the first in line was Huffman, who is beginning his third and final term in the state Assembly.
“I’m certainly putting myself in position to run if Lynn decides to retire,” Huffman said. “We will find out in a few months about her formal announcement but I’ve gone ahead and gotten started with an exploratory committee, and I’m actively seeking support. If she changes her mind and decides she wants to stick around, I will support her in that direction too.”
Marin Supervisor Charles McGlashan and San Rafael Councilman Damon Connolly both say they are interested in stepping into Huffman’s seat when he leaves. McGlashan, whose term ends in 2012, has also said he is interested in an appointment to the California Public Utilities Commission.
On Tuesday, Adams expressed interest in Woolsey’s congressional seat, albeit more tentatively.
“I’ve been approached by some people to consider it, and I would consider it but only if Lynn really is retiring,” Adams said. “I think it is worthwhile at least talking to some people to see if I would have some support out there.”
Adams declined to say who it was who urged her to run.
Solomon, the author of a dozen books on media, politics and public policy, said, “I’m very seriously looking at running for Congress when Lynn Woolsey decides to retire. The traditional political approaches are dismal failures and really jeopardizing the future for the next generation.”
Evans said under the reformed redistricting process, which takes place this year, the boundaries of Woolsey’s 6th Congressional District could shift.
“We don’t know where those district lines are going to be drawn,” Evans said. “If there is a congressional seat open to me I would definitely explore it.”
Evans, who served three terms in the Assembly, won her 2nd District Senate seat in November. That district covers all or portions of Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties.
Brian Sobel, a Petaluma-based political analyst, considers Huffman and Evans the frontrunners, “because they’ve both been serving for awhile now, and they’re highly respected in the Democratic party.
“Jared is perfectly positioned as an Assembly member who has very high name recognition and high positives in Marin and southern Sonoma County,” Sobel said. “Noreen would have to be introduced to Marin County and southern Sonoma County. She has a bigger challenge.”
But Sobel said Evans, who has become “a little more of a Sacramento insider,” would be a tough competitor. He said serious candidates will need “fairly significant” name recognition with high positives and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. Candidates such as Adams, who is beginning her third term as a supervisor, and Zane, who is in her first term, will have to think hard about whether they can compete in the field of candidates who emerge, Sobel said.
“Otherwise, you’re going to spend a lot of money and not end up in the finals,” he said.
Under California’s new open primary law, the top two vote-getters, whether Democrat or Republican, will face off in the general election.
Sobel said it would be even tougher for someone like Solomon, who has never run for office, to pull off an upset victory.
But Solomon isn’t discouraged by long odds.
“It’s one of the things I have in common with Paul Wellstone, who never ran for anything before he was elected to the U.S. Senate,” Solomon said, regarding his lack of political experience.
Wellstone, who died in a plane crash in 2002, was a popular two-term U.S. senator from Minnesota and a leading spokesman for the progressive wing of the national Democratic party.
Sobel said much will depend on how many candidates run. He said one of the reasons Woolsey was initially elected to Congress in 1992 is that she competed in a crowded Democratic primary.
“She was a huge underdog, ” Sobel said.