Rep. Brian Baird (D)
Washington 3rd District
From the Pacific Ocean to the majestic row of active and inactive volcanoes, from Mount Rainier to Mount St. Helens, southwest Washington was long one of America’s most productive lumber areas. The moist air and almost constant rains blown in from the Pacific keep the trees on the coast growing rapidly. Precipitation is heavy in the valleys just past the Coast Range, and the forests there are also fast growing. Then come the high mountains. The Cascades are a genuine divide, wringing almost all of the moisture out of the air and making the climate eastward for a thousand miles arid. Americans were reminded of the force of the volcanoes when Mount St. Helens, dormant for 123 years, erupted in 1980, killing 65 people, destroying its own peak and paving the land around it with lava. Americans had long been taught that the lower 48 states had no active volcanoes, but Mount St. Helens proved that wrong. Today, plants, animals and fish are surging back.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In 1805, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark came down the Columbia River to a rainy and foggy winter by the ocean. For many years, this part of Washington was sparsely settled, with lumber-mill and fishing-boat towns scattered between mountains and water. It was flannel-shirt country, Democratic since the New Deal days. In the early 1990s, its resource-based economy was threatened by the environmental movement, which restricted fishing practices and produced a court decision shutting down logging in old-growth forests to save spotted owl habitat. This roiled local politics and gave Republicans an opening. An important demographic shift has been the spread of two great metropolitan areas into these valleys. Clark County, across the Columbia from Portland, Ore., has filled up with new residents, eager to avoid Oregon’s income tax but still make big purchases in Oregon free of sales tax. The county’s population grew by 45% in the 1990s and by another 23% after 2000. Olympia, the increasingly trendy and fast-growing state capital, has added residents at a greater rate than the Seattle-Tacoma metro area in recent years. The region is one of America’s great international trading areas, with big exports of logs and timber and imports arriving on the Puget Sound docks. The Columbia River Gorge features spectacular outdoor activities, including some of the finest windsurfing in the nation.
The 3rd Congressional District of Washington covers the southwestern corner of the state, between the ocean and the Cascades, from Olympia south to Vancouver. Economic growth and diversification and the coming of many new residents with no roots in the old industries have made the district politically marginal; George W. Bush won here with 48% of the vote in 2000 and 50% in 2004. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama won here with 53% of the vote in 2008. It is one of only nine districts in the country with a Cook Partisan Voter Index score of “Even,” meaning its political performance closely approximates the national average. About two-thirds of the district’s votes are cast near Vancouver in the Portland, Ore., market, where suburban dwellers are wary of high taxes. Liberals are more prevalent in the northern third of the district around Olympia, which is in the Seattle media market.
Rep. Brian Baird (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: March 7, 1956, Chama, NM .
Education: U. of UT, B.A. 1977, U. of WY, M.S. 1980, Ph.D. 1984.
Family: Married (Rachel); 2 children.
Professional Career: Prof., Pacific Lutheran U., 1986-98.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Brian Baird, a Democrat first elected in 1998. He announced in December 2009 that he would retire at the end of his current term. The 53-year-old said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and 4-year-old twin sons. Baird told The Oregonian newspaper, “I’m confident I could win re-election. I’m proud of my record. But the boys are of an age where you don’t get those years back.” His decision catapulted the politically competitive 3rd District to the top of both parties’ target lists for 2010.
|Brian Baird (D)||216,701||(64%)||($926,288)|
|Michael Delavar (R)||121,828||(36%)||($78,385)|
|Brian Baird (D)||83,409||(51%)|
|Michael Delavar (R)||32,372||(20%)|
|Christine Webb (R)||27,738||(17%)|
|Cheryl Crist (D)||21,356||(13%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (62%), 2002 (62%), 2000 (56%), 1998 (55%)
Baird was born in northern New Mexico and grew up in western Colorado. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Wyoming and worked with veterans, brain-injured patients and families dealing with cancer, as well as with juvenile delinquents in prison and psychiatric hospitals. He wrote The Internship and Practicum Handbook to help interns in the social services professions and Are We Having Fun Yet? for couples and families on vacation. He moved to Washington in complete work on a doctorate degree, and eventually he became a professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. He ran for the U.S. House in 1996 against Republican Rep. Linda Smith, who had strong support from Christian conservatives. Baird got little national party help, but he led on Election Night until more than 40,000 absentee votes were counted; Smith won by just 887 votes, 50.2%-49.8%. Taking a leave from his job, Baird never stopped running. Two years later, Smith was running (unsuccessfully, it turned out) against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, and Republicans nominated state Sen. Don Benton to run for her House seat. Benton called for a flat tax and protection of gun rights and property rights. Baird spent twice as much money as Benton and won 55%-45%.
In the House, Baird has a mostly moderate voting record. In the 111th Congress (2009-10), he became the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment subcommittee, which has an important role in shaping Democrats’ climate-change agenda. Baird is particularly focused on ocean acidification, one of his personal interests. In the past, he has proposed incentives for owners of gas-electric hybrid cars, one of which he owns.
Baird voted against the use of force in Iraq in 2002, but in 2007 he returned from a visit there and said that progress was being made and that the Bush administration’s troop surge strategy needed more time to work. His change of heart drew tough criticism at home and from his Democratic House colleagues. In February 2009, he visited the Gaza Strip with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to view damage caused by an Israeli military offensive in the area. They were the first House members to visit Gaza since the Islamist movement Hamas won Palestinian Authority legislative elections in 2006.
Among Baird’s legislative achievements was a bill to restore income-tax deductibility for state sales taxes, which he had promised to deliver in his first campaign for the House. With a big boost from the large Texas congressional delegation, a modified version was passed as part of the 2004 corporate-tax bill. Baird has since worked with Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell to make the deduction permanent. In 2008, Baird and Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., inserted a provision into the $700 billion bailout of the financial-services industry to require firms that receive bailout money to repay the government, through fees or a tax, if their investments fail to turn a profit in five years. In 2005, the House passed Baird’s amendment to add $20 million to the fight against methamphetamine abuse. Also that year, he enacted a bill to protect a 20-mile stretch of the upper White Salmon River system.
Baird is interested in a variety of institutional issues affecting the U.S. House and gained national attention after the September 11 attacks by proposing a constitutional amendment providing that if one-fourth of House seats became vacant, governors would appoint successors within seven days from a list of replacements proposed by existing members. It was ultimately shelved by Congress. He has sought to tighten insider-trading restrictions on members of Congress and their aides. He has also advocated posting the text of bills on the Internet for 72 hours prior to a vote. And in 2006, he proposed making it harder for the House to waive the three-day waiting period between introducing legislation and voting on it; he wanted the rule to require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.
Baird has been re-elected easily, even though Bush twice carried the district. In October 2008, he got some negative publicity when the television program Inside Edition aired a segment called “The Trip of a Lifetime on Your Dime” about a trip that he and other lawmakers took to the Galapagos Islands. Members of the group were caught on hidden cameras enjoying what was depicted as a luxury vacation financed by tax dollars. Baird defended the trip as a chance for House members to obtain first-hand knowledge about ocean acidification, El Niño and the spread of invasive species. There was no fallout for him electorally. In November, he defeated Republican nominee Michael Delavar with 64% of the vote.