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All I can say is good for Connie Codding.

Good for her for standing up and saying what many people have known for months but few have been willing to say on the record.

State Sen. Pat Wiggins is not herself. She has not been for some time, and it has all the signs of dementia. Maybe it's not, but there's clearly something that's not right.

"To be honest, I think she's not competent," Codding, a respected voice in Sonoma County Democratic circles, told The Press Democrat's Derek J. Moore.

No, she's not competent.

She's surrounded by competent staff members who have done their level best to make her look competent, but she's not. And it's time to stop the charade.

The loss of short-term memory, the inappropriate outbursts at committee hearings, the inability to respond to simple questions at community events.

Her staff has handled and protected her — and shielded her from reporters — for too long, and now they appear on the brink of letting her run for re-election which, in my mind, would be the cruelest move of all.

Let's be clear about something. I don't want to write about this. Nobody enjoys writing or talking about this. Wiggins, a former Santa Rosa City Council member and a member of the state Legislature for nine years, has been a respected leader for this region for some time.

But it's not just Sonoma County residents who are raising questions. Consider this quote from a July 18 editorial in the Napa County Register, "This year, as Wiggins has appeared at local events, including a fund-raiser for her own campaign coffers, Napa County residents have come away concerned about her well-being. Political officials and constituents, careful to speak off the record, wonder about Wiggins' conduct."

It was my hope, and the hope of many, that after her strange upbraiding of a Sacramento pastor a year ago at a committee meeting that Wiggins would acknowledge her health issues and, if not step down, at least make it clear that there would be no second term.

If she had, I'm guessing — I can't speak for our newsroom — that Friday's lengthy story wouldn't have appeared. I know I wouldn't be writing this column.

But she hasn't. Instead, Wiggins appears to be running again. She told Moore as much last week, and today, the group Women in the Wine Country is holding a fund-raiser at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Center to help with her 2010 re-election. This is the same place where she held her "campaign kick-off" for the state Senate in 2005. Suggested donations this time range from $40 at the door to $3,600. Checks are made payable to "Friends of Pat Wiggins for State Senate 2010."

The "host committee" for today's event includes state Sen. Mark Leno, Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, Supervisor Shirlee Zane, Windsor Mayor Deb Fudge, Santa Rosa Planning Commissioner Michael Allen and many others.

By listing their names, do all of these people honestly believe that Wiggins is fit to serve another term?

I asked that question to one of those on this list. In response, I got another request to go off the record and a simple, "Let's just say I won't be out campaigning for her."

More charade.

Granted, the filing deadline for this election isn't until March and the primary isn't until June 8, 2010. But it's important to talk about this now.

The 2nd state Senate district is a solid Democratic seat.

This race likely will be decided in the primary, and now is the time that potential challengers are pulling together campaign workers and money, and incumbents are trying to scare off challengers.

This is essentially what happened in 2005. Although Wiggins was not an incumbent, the former Assembly member got an early start and raised such a war chest to succeed Chesbro that nobody ran against her in the primary, and she handily won the 2006 general election with 65 percent of the vote.

But if the hope is to avoid a primary contest again, it's not turning out that way. At least one strong Democratic candidate has already emerged in David Rosas, a Roseland School District trustee who ran unsuccessfully for the Santa Rosa City Council last year.

If Wiggins backs out, it's likely Evans, a good friend who will be termed out in 2010, will jump in. Who knows how many others may be holding back waiting for Wiggins to do something.

But this is about more than politics.

It's about being upfront about a problem that confronts many families.

This is why Connie Codding has so much credibility on this issue. She's not only a longtime, influential voice in Democratic causes, her husband, Hugh Codding, the longtime local developer, suffers from dementia. She's been there. She has supported Wiggins, and she sees what is happening.

"It's just time for her to step back," she said. "We all reach a certain stage."

And we all need friends and family members to be there to tell us when we do.

Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat. E-mail him at paul.gullixson@pressdemocrat.com or call him at 521-5282.