Congressional hopefuls focus on economy

Varied approaches to boosting the North Coast economy, ranging from biomass energy production to marijuana to coastal protection from oil drilling, were voiced by seven Democratic congressional candidates at a public forum Wednesday night in Petaluma.

Few significant differences were revealed, however, as Tiffany Ren?, the vice mayor of Petaluma and one of the candidates, observed: "We're hearing a lot about progressivism in this race."

The seven Democrats are vying for the job held by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, whose retirement triggered the first wide-open race for the congressional seat in 20years.

One at a time, the candidates laid out their proposals for economic development in a district with high unemployment.

Stacey Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman and educator, advocated biomass and biofuel development, putting the region's natural resources to productive use. She also proposed niche manufacturing and sustainable agriculture, calling for improved access to capital as a means to spur small businesses.

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