No North Coast campaign has drawn more attention in recent years than the 12-candidate rush to succeed Lynn Woolsey in the newly drawn 2nd Congressional District. No contest has drawn more money either. Total spending for the primary will probably be in excess of $3 million, and that's just to determine the two candidates to square off in the fall.

This race to represent a coastal district stretching from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border features candidates as diverse as the geography the district covers. But in the end, there is only one clear choice in our view. That is state Assemblyman Jared Huffman.

Huffman was something of an unknown to Sonoma County when he ran six years ago and won a seat representing Marin and southern Sonoma counties. But since then he has proven to be a refreshing voice of reason in the Legislature. Huffman is a practical, progressive lawmaker who is not above reaching across the aisle to confront the state's budgetary challenges. He understands that protecting the economy and the environment are not mutually exclusive.

As a former senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Huffman has fought for sound policies concerning water, salmon and protecting natural resources. He responded swiftly in seeking legislation allowing local nonprofits to take over management of state parks that were threatened with closure. He will represent the region's interests well in Washington.

That said, voters will find a number of other appealing candidates in this race as well. Chief among them is Susan Adams, a three-term member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Adams, who has a background in nursing, would bring some practical front-line experience to the ongoing debate over health care.<NO1><NO>

Adams has shown herself to be an even-keeled elected official who is more interested in making decisions that make sense than pleasing any particular special interest.

Norman Solomon, a west Marin author and progressive activist, and Stacey Lawson, a San Rafael businesswoman who cofounded the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley are also strong candidates. Lawson, a graduate of Harvard Business School, has attracted significant financial support from outside the area and the political backing of some East Coast political groups. But she is a relative unknown locally in that she has lived in Marin County less than three years and has no real track record of service. In addition, we're unimpressed by her explanations for why she didn't vote in eight of 12 elections prior to 2008.

<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>Solomon is passionate on progressive causes and speaks well on issues of foreign policy. But this district needs someone who will do more than speak out about bringing troops home from war, something just about all the candidates have pledged to do. In our view, it requires someone who has a history of legislative success and/or experience in elected office, which both Solomon and Lawson lack.

The leading Republican contender is Daniel Roberts, a Mill Valley financial adviser who wants to amend accounting laws to stop corporate fraud. He's the stronger GOP contender in the race, but he faces an uphill fight in this left-leaning district.

Other Democrats in the race include Petaluma City Councilwoman Tiffany Renee, Earth First activist Andy Caffrey and Mill Valley psychotherapist Larry Fritzlan. All are engaging candidates, but they lack the experience and background of the others.

In our view, there is just one candidate whose background, legislative accomplishments and common-sense approach to problem-solving best prepare him to represent the North Coast in Congress. The Press Democrat recommends Jared Huffman in the 2nd Congressional District.