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Woolsey Wants to Continue as Progressives’ Leader

A month after telling her colleagues she was stepping down as co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to make way for new leadership in the House Democrats’ liberal faction, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) has changed her mind.

Woolsey instead will be seeking her third term atop the 71-member bloc, the largest coalition in the Democratic Caucus. The move comes as liberals keep their fingers crossed for a Democratic sweep on Election Day. Their hope is that a big win would unfreeze their agenda, stymied over the past two years by a closely divided Senate and the Bush White House.

Woolsey said she is jumping back in the race after deciding the group needs continuity of leadership. Her co-chairwoman for the last four years, Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.), is quitting to take the reins at the Congressional Black Caucus, where she is running unopposed for the chair.

“It became very clear to me that with all that’s going on in the world, and in this country, we have such a need for a progressive voice,” Woolsey said.

“The continuity we would lose with both Barbara and I leaving at the same time — it did not seem like the right thing to do.”

She added, “If members want all new leadership, they will have options.”

So far, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.) has declared his candidacy, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) is rumored to be interested. Her spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Woolsey announced her decision in an e-mail to the caucus over the weekend, explaining she would follow up with a letter to outline her goals for the group. She declined to detail them in an interview, but suggested broadly that the caucus needs to position itself as a check on the party’s moderate wing, which is poised to grow next year.

“We will have way more Democrats in the House, which means that the Progressive Caucus will increase in size, but so will other caucuses,”Woolsey said. “I want to ensure the Progressive Caucus continues to have a big voice and be part of the balance we must have to represent our Democratic base.”

Of a potential President Barack Obama, she said, “We need to remind him that there are other arguments to his plans, so we can improve on them.”

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