PETALUMA, California (Reuters) - U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey said on Monday she will retire after two decades in office, the first of California’s congressional delegation calling it quits since a plan was drafted to radically redraw the state’s electoral districts.
The 10-term Democrat, who represents Marin and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco, called the proposed boundary changes to her district “silly” but said that had nothing to do with her decision not to seek reelection in 2012.
“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,” Woolsey told reporters at an event at her home in Petaluma, 40 miles north of San Francisco.
Woolsey, a staunch liberal, is known for her vocal opposition to U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
She raised three children as a single mother with the help of government assistance, and as a member of Congress she has been a strong supporter of social safety net programs.
The 6th Congressional District long represented by Woolsey currently encompasses Marin and Sonoma counties, its northern edge reaching about a third of the distance between San Francisco and the Oregon border.
As redrawn under a statewide draft redistricting plan released June 10 by the newly formed California Citizens Redistricting Commission, her district would extend along the coast all the way to Oregon.
Woolsey has criticized the reshaped district as geographically cumbersome, stretching 375 miles end to end over a distance that could barely be covered in a single day’s drive.
Eric McGhee, a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said the redrawn district would require Woolsey to introduce herself to a new set of voters in large areas she has never represented.
That could create an opportunity for someone who is more familiar to those voters to gain an advantage in a bid to unseat her, McGhee said.
Democrats make up the largest share of voters in both the current district and the proposed new incarnation, he said.
Woolsey told reporters on Monday, “I think we all know I’d win if I ran in that new district.”
Other veteran U.S. House members from California whose districts would be dramatically altered under the proposed new electoral map include David Dreier, a Republican whose territory lies northeast of Los Angeles, and Jerry Lewis, a Republican representing a vast inland swath of Southern California.
The Citizens Redistricting Commission was the creation of a 2008 voter-approved initiative championed by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The panel has until August 15 to produce its final political maps.
Woolsey said that she plans to continue to fight against her proposed district in the coming weeks.
“I don’t want to leave this district with a really silly configuration, if I can do something about it,” she said.
Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Bohan