A tearful state Sen. Pat Wiggins told supporters Sunday that she will not seek another four-year term in the Legislature next year.
"The best decision, at this time, is that I will not be seeking re-election in 2010," Wiggins said Sunday at a campaign fund-raiser at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center outside Santa Rosa.
Speculation about Wiggins' health and political future had intensified in recent months amid outbursts, odd displays of affection and the 69-year-old senator's apparent inability at times to focus or remember things.
In making her announcement, Wiggins acknowledged she had faced physical disabilities throughout her career. But she did not specifically address why she was not seeking another term, and she and her staff declined comment Sunday.
Just last week, Wiggins said she was running for re-election in 2010 during a brief interview in a hallway at the state Capitol.
On Sunday, Wiggins did not say why she had changed her mind with more than a full year left in her term. She disclosed the decision at what was billed as a fund-raiser for her re-election campaign. Supporters were asked to donate $35 to $3,600 to attend.
Wiggins told the about 70 people in attendance that she had been proud to represent her district, which spans six counties on the North Coast.
"It's a pleasure to represent you, the greatest district in California," Wiggins said, breaking into tears as she concluded her speech.
Tony Alvernaz, president of Santa Rosa City Employees Association, expressed sadness at the announcement.
"It is unfortunate it has come to this. She has done a phenomenal job," he said. "She has carried so much legislation for the working class people of her district."
Wiggins received praise from her colleagues Sunday.
"Senator Wiggins is a great leader and accomplished legislator," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. "All of us who love her offer her and her family our full support and appreciation."
Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, a close political ally of Wiggins and a longtime friend, will likely run for the Senate seat in 2010, Evans spokesman Terry Price said.
Roseland School District trustee David Rosas has already filed papers to run in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Senate District, which covers Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano & Sonoma counties.
Wiggins, a former computer systems analyst who was first elected to the Santa Rosa City Council in 1994. She established herself in the "smart growth" movement and helped strengthen local laws that restrict growth to within a defined city area.
She would rise to become a powerful force in North Coast politics, amassing a sizeable campaign war chest and helping like-minded politicians get into office.
"She has been the core of many of the progressive movements on the North Coast," Price said.
Wiggins was elected to the state Assembly in 1998, representing Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties until she was forced out of office by term limits in 2004. Two years later, she won election to the state Senate, where she compiled one of the best attendance records of any senator, according to state records.
"This is a job she was born to do," said Marty Roberts, who helped Wiggins get elected to the City Council and remains a close friend. "She's been so dedicated to it. She works from her heart."