With apologies to the other candidates, if is the cerebrum of the race to represent the North Bay in Congress, is its political legs and is its social-network conscience. That makes Tiffany Renée - accent on the first “é,” thank you very much - the campaign’s heart.
Having left home at 16, Renée put herself through college and was a two-time teenage parent by the time she was 19.
But there's plenty more to her story. Renée descends from a prominent and politically active Sacramento family. Her father, Bill Withrow, was a developer who served as three-term honorary Mayor of the town of Fair Oaks, as well as founding the American River Bank, a NASDAQ-listed community financial institution with six branches throughout greater Sacramento.
With her feet on both sides of the proverbial tracks, Renée says she believes she can take her place as one of Sonoma County’s political stars.
Renée sits on the Petaluma City Council, and her list of boards and commissions includes the Golden Gate Bridge District, the Association of Bay Area Governments' Executive Board and the Sonoma County Commission, among others. At 40 years old, Renee has generally been the youngest member of these various boards and is part of a new generation taking its place at the California political power table.
For Renée, experience has always been the great instructor. Taking care of her aging grandparents, for example, lead her to support “Aging in Place” legislation that enables the elderly to avoid being forced out of their homes into rest homes. She also sees herself as a feminist protégé of Barbara Boxer, Lynn Woolsey and other California women who came of political age in 1992, “California’s Year of the Woman,” as well as in 1995, the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. Being involved in women’s issues has also helped make Renée a voice in the feminist movement in Sonoma County for protecting women against domestic violence.
She also touts her environmental background and green voting record as a plus. She also hopes to keep the North Bay "counties connected and sharing hard-to-come-by resources.” She views Sonoma County as the heart of various environmental causes, including “transit, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, issues of clean energy and more efficient housing.”
Renée calls herself “the Sonoma County candidate for Congress,” with her natural electoral base in Petaluma, the largest city in the 6th Congressional District. She hopes Sonoma County can help her overcome the strong fundraising abilities of her opponents.
Renée touts her ability “to build community and embrace diversity,” for which she draws on her multi-cultural background that includes Chilean, Guatemalan and French-Canadian blood. Renée feels she can make up the deficit in money and organization with what she calls, “my ability to engage and communicate with people of different backgrounds.”
That ability to engage is not quite yet foolproof. At a 2010 City Council debate involving the possible docking of a decommissioned World War II gunboat lovingly called the “Mighty Midget” on Petaluma's water-front, Renée showed a little less geo-political understanding than she might have hoped.
Renée angered veterans and startled listeners with a warning that the presence of what was one of the U.S. Navy’s smallest but most potent warships might provoke an angry response by a rogue state like North Korea, which could target the North Bay.
Renée's a quick learner, so expect her to dig in, bone up on her 20th Century history and not make that same kind of mistake twice.
She appears tenecious enough to do so. After losing a race for the Petaluma City Council in 2006, she spent the following several years “attending every council meeting except for one.” If she finishes out of the money in the race for Lynn Woolsey’s Congressional seat - a likely scenario - look for her to chalk it up to experience, and as she suggests, “prepare me better for the next time.” Count on it.