Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D)
California 6th District
When the Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937, San Francisco was one of the nation’s best-known cities, but few knew much about the land beyond the bridge’s north pier head. There were fewer than 50,000 people in Marin County then and another 65,000 just to the north in Sonoma County. For San Franciscans, Marin was known for the ferry terminus in Sausalito, a fishing village and art colony, and as the beginning of the Redwood Empire, with its giant trees in Muir Woods that grow taller than any others in the world (the largest is more than 300 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter), and with a dense concentration of spotted owls that demand quiet during the mating season. Near the Bay and adjacent to the Interstate 580 bridge is the state prison at San Quentin, one of the oldest in the nation, with its famous gas chamber and crowded death row. Plans in 2007 for a $337 million overhaul of the facility were sidetracked, and led to local calls to demolish it and use the valuable land for more commercial enterprises. Inverness has old wooden storefronts and attracts weekenders escaping city life. Farther north is the Point Reyes peninsula with its organic farming and recreational activities, and the wine country of Sonoma County, sunny valleys protected from the fog by the Coast Range. In one such valley is Santa Rosa, which was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and later the site of agronomist Luther Burbank’s laboratory, a town that looked Middle American enough to be the set for dozens of movies. Politically, the area was then typical of the nation: traditionally Republican, but favoring Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Today, this part of California is far more populous, with 248,000 people in Marin County and 464,000 in Sonoma, and is affluent beyond the dreams of post-World War II Americans. It is struggling to keep up with the pace of growth, as witnessed by the 2008 leaking into the bay of more than 5 million gallons of sewage from aging pipes. The area is also extreme in its cultural attitudes, with relatively few racial minorities compared to other counties in the Bay Area. Until it was surpassed by the Silicon Valley in the late 1990s, it was the nation’s most expensive housing market. Santa Rosa is thriving, thanks to the wine and telecommunications industries. Trendy Marin became a national caricature: economically affluent, culturally liberal. When the war in Iraq began, “many of the same people who marched against the Vietnam War have held nightly peace vigils,” The Washington Post reported. They included a group of feminists who “bared witness” by using their nude bodies to spell out “PEACE.” After a while, such an image feeds on itself. Marin attracts affluent people who share its values, while those who don’t go elsewhere—in the Bay Area to the more conservative San Ramon Valley, beyond the mountains east of Oakland. Indeed the Bay Area as a whole seems to attract liberals and repel conservatives, just as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex does the opposite. Marin and Sonoma attract the most liberal of the liberal—averse to traditional religious denominations, indifferent to traditional sexual and marriage mores, and viscerally anti-military.
The 6th Congressional District of California includes all of Marin County and all of Sonoma County except for its rural eastern border. These counties have been transformed politically over the past generation. In 1980, they voted for Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter 47%-36%. Then they moved left and voted in 1988 for Michael Dukakis over George H. W. Bush by 57%-41%. Now Republicans seem almost an endangered species here. In 2004, the district voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush by 70%-28%. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory over John McCain in Marin and Sonoma was a stunning 76%-22%.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Nov. 3, 1937, Seattle, WA .
Education: U. of San Francisco, B.S. 1981.
Family: Divorced; 4 children.
Elected office: Petaluma City Cncl., 1985–92, Vice Mayor, 1986, 1991.
Professional Career: Human Resources Mgr., Harris Digital Telephone, 1969–80; Owner, Woolsey Personnel Svc., 1980–92.
The congresswoman from the 6th District is Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat first elected in 1992. Woolsey grew up in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Marin, and was a stay-at-home mother with three children under age six when her marriage ended in 1968. She went on welfare, got a low-paying job, and left her children with 13 different babysitters in a year. Deliverance appeared in the form of a job with a high-tech start-up firm, where she rose to become a top executive. She remarried and moved to a house in Petaluma where her mother could live in and look after the kids. She put herself through business school at night, earned a degree in human resources, and started her own personnel service. In 1984, Woolsey won a seat on the Petaluma Council. In 1992, she won the U.S. House seat in a nine-candidate primary with 26%, well ahead of 19% for the runner-up. In the general, she faced liberal Republican Assemblyman Bill Filante. He was prevented from campaigning when he fell ill and had to have surgery for a brain tumor. She won 65%-34%.
|Lynn Woolsey (D)||229,672||(72%)||($686,383)|
|Mike Halliwell (R)||77,073||(24%)||($49,657)|
|Joel Smolen (Lib)||13,617||(4%)|
|Lynn Woolsey (D)||88,969||(100%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (70%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (67%), 2000 (64%), 1998 (68%), 1996 (62%), 1994 (58%), 1992 (65%)
An apt representative of her district, Woolsey has one of the most liberal voting records in the House. As the first former welfare recipient in Congress, she opposed the 1996 welfare overhaul and supports easing work requirements and providing more child care. She says she thinks a parent ought to be at home until children reach age 11. She lobbied against banning gays in the military, accompanied by her son, who is gay. Republicans sought to embarrass Democrats by calling for a vote on Woolsey’s bill to revoke the federal charter for the Boy Scouts because the group excludes gays, and her bill was defeated 362-12. On the Science and Technology Committee, Woolsey has worked to promote energy efficiency and increase support for alternative-energy sources. She is an unabashed liberal who told National Journal after the 2008 election that it would be a mistake for President Obama to take Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s advice that “the country must be governed from the middle.”
With Reps. Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, fellow California Democrats, she created the Out of Iraq Caucus in 2005, and anti-war groups called it “the conscience” of the Democratic Caucus. For President Bush’s State of the Union message in 2006, she gave a gallery ticket to anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, who was arrested during the speech. As co-chair of the Progressive Caucus in 2007, Woolsey called for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in six months, even as Speaker Pelosi was pushing for a 2008 deadline. Woolsey lamented that many of her liberal colleagues eventually backed long-term funding for the war because “they can’t hold up under the pressure,” and she called for primary challenges to Democratic moderates. She wants “a complete re-evaluation of U.S. national security policy.” In September 2008, Woolsey was one of 13 Democrats who voted against House passage of a bill to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling. She wrote that the plan “continues the myth … that we can drill our way out of our nation’s energy crisis.” With her occasionally fractious relationship with Pelosi, she has failed in her quest to win a seat on the influential Appropriations Committee, holding spots on Education and Labor as well as Science and Technology.
But Woolsey did manage to get the House to authorize $15 million to renovate the immigration complex on Angel Island, where countless Chinese arrivals were detained in deplorable conditions. She has been easily re-elected. She was challenged in the 2002 primary by Santa Rosa Mayor Mike Martini, the founder of a winery in Sebastopol, who criticized her for lack of leadership, excessively liberal votes, and failure to bring sufficient funds to the district. Woolsey responded that she had delivered $430 million since 1997, and defended her record on civil-liberties grounds. She won 80%-20%. In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest, she endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, though Woolsey said that her own views were closer to those of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the liberal Ohio Democrat who was a long-shot candidate in the race.