"She's the closest thing to an unbeatable candidate this county has ever seen," is how Petaluma political consultant Brian Sobel describes his former City Council colleague and longtime friend, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey.
And he appears to be right on the mark. As a 10-term congresswoman representing Marin and Sonoma counties, Woolsey never received less than 58 percent of the vote, peaking as high as 72.7 percent in 2004.
"She has a basic commitment to people, social justice and children," according to Sobel, which is what probably earned her this year's ranking as the "most liberal member of Congress by That's My Congress.
That, and maybe inviting anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan to a State of the Union address in 2006, where Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, was arrested for wearing an anti-war T-shirt.
Or, perhaps, it was the 444 five-minute talks she gave on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I was the first voice for bringing the troops home," she said, seated at the dining room table of the B Street home where she has lived since 1971. "I introduced legislation in 2005 to bring the troops home and it got 138 bipartisan votes."
And then there was the time in 2007 when she was arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy with four other House members protesting the blocking of aid to victims of the genocide in Darfur.
And, of course, she supported gay rights, including signing onto Petaluman Steven Cozza's "Scouting for All" campaign to lift the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members.
Woolsey has never been shy about expressing her passion for issues, even when she served on Petaluma City Council beginning in 1984, and then as mayor from 1989 until she was elected to Congress in 1992.
"Even then she had a lot of passion for federal level issues -education, environment, justice, peace," Sobel said, explaining that she was always interested in issues beyond the scope of city government. "She had loftier goals about how she could contribute to things."
So she decided to run for Congress. This is how Woolsey describes her leap from small town mayor to U.S. Congresswoman: When Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae) was a congresswoman, she used to invite influential women from around her district to an annual party honoring Bay Area women.
In 1992, one of the Sonoma County women sitting with Woolsey at the party said, "She's (Boxer) so wonderful, but I can't imagine doing what she does."
And Woolsey recalls replying, "I can."
That same year Boxer announced that she was making a run for U.S. Senate, and Woolsey decided that was her opening.
"I wasn't going to run against Barbara Boxer. I wasn't that dumb," Woolsey said.
So Woolsey added her name to the list of Democrats vying for Boxer's seat, the last of nine candidates to file.
At candidate debates, "We were all saying pretty much the same thing," Woolsey remembers. "So, I asked myself, why am I different? I had been a single mom with three kids after my divorce from my first husband and I had been on welfare at one time. So I set down my whole story and incorporated it into my debates."