Rep. Joe Baca (D)
Elected: Nov. 1999, 5th full term.
Born: Jan. 23, 1947, Belen, NM .
Education: CA State L.A., B.A., 1971.
Family: Married (Barbara); 4 children.
Military career: Army, 1966-68.
Elected office: CA Assembly, 1992-98; CA Senate, 1998-99.
Professional Career: Community affairs rep., General Telephone and Electric, 1974-89; Co-owner, Interstate World Travel, 1989-present.
The congressman from the 43rd District is Joe Baca, a Democrat first elected in 1999. He was born in Belen, N.M., the youngest of 15 children. His family moved to Barstow, Calif., in the desert, when he was four years old. His father worked as a laborer for the Santa Fe Railroad. At age 10, Baca went to work, first shining shoes and then selling newspapers and working as a janitor. He served in the Army as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War, but did not see combat. After graduating from California State University at Los Angeles, Baca moved to the San Bernardino area, where he spent 15 years as a community-affairs representative for General Telephone and Electric. He was elected four times to the San Bernardino Community College board. After two unsuccessful campaigns, the persistent Baca was elected to the state Assembly in 1992. He rose to become speaker pro tempore of the Assembly, the first Latino to hold the position. He earned a reputation as a hard worker, introducing many bills, including legislation to to reduce welfare rolls, lower taxes on middle-income earners and increase penalties for drug dealers.
|Joe Baca (D)||108,259||(69%)||($885,963)|
|John Roberts (R)||48,312||(31%)||($64,941)|
|Joe Baca (D)||13,177||(66%)|
|Joanne Gilbert (D)||6,701||(34%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (60%), 1999 (51%)
Facing term limits in 1998, he considering running in the primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. George Brown, a Democrat. Instead he ran for the state Senate, spending $2 million to win the seat and raise his profile. His opportunity to run for Congress came in July 1999, when Brown died in his 18th term. His widow, Marta Macias Brown, ran for the seat. Widows of members had won in 35 of the previous 36 such races, but Minority Leader Richard Gephardt refused her request to clear the field, and Baca ran. He won the endorsement of organized labor and had a base among Latino voters. Brown attacked him for receiving the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. Baca won the all-party primary with 32% of the vote to Brown’s 30%. He then focused on Republican nominee Elia Pirozzi, a real estate developer. Brown did not endorse Baca, who emphasized his centrist voting record and his support for targeted tax cuts, a minimum-wage increase and abortion rights. In a light turnout, Baca won 51%-45%.
In the House, Baca has one of the more conservative voting records of California Democrats. As a junior member, he was in a hurry to move up, and he lobbied for a seat on the Rules Committee. He then complained that he had been “bypassed” after Gephardt filled two openings with other lawmakers.
He finally achieved a high-profile role in the 110th Congress (2007-08), when he was chosen as chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. But his tenure was marked by internal discord. In 2007, several women members complained about his handling of the caucus and about allegedly sexist remarks; all but one woman abstained from the vote naming him chairman. A year earlier, when Baca was running the group’s political action committee, some members protested when funds were used to support bids for office by two of his sons. As chairman, he urged action on immigration reform, but he failed to accomplish much.
In 2007, he became chairman on the Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry and was the most senior Californian working on the farm bill that year. Dairy production is the chief agricultural business in his district. He focused on greater opportunities for socially disadvantaged farmers and won support for a new program to give minority farmers better access to Agriculture Department services. With a seat as well on the Financial Services Committee, Baca sought relief for people facing home foreclosures. He voted for the second version of the bill bailing out the financial markets in 2008 after securing a commitment for subsequent mortgage-relief legislation.
With redistricting changes, the district became significantly more Democratic and less competitive. In 2006, Baca’s two sons lost bids for the state Legislature. But in 2009, son Joe Baca Jr. became the mayor of Rialto. In 2008, Baca Sr.’s competition for re-election was Fontana City Councilman John Roberts; Baca won by his best-ever ratio, 69%-31%.