Big Shoes to Fill in Our Open House Seat

Congressman Brian Baird
Krist Novoselic's column on music and politics runs every week on the Daily Weekly. He is also a regular contributor to Reverb.
When was the last time you read a story about a politician that was dismissive, critical, and called for their head? Probably five minutes ago! I also want to write about a congressman who is usually angering someone or another. In a surprise announcement last week, Brian Baird announced that he will not seek office in 2010. I'm going to write about the 3rd U.S. House District and Baird's work in Congress, and offer a tribute to his leadership in this corner of our state. There may be griping among constituents about his votes and positions, but at the same time Baird has managed to get re-elected, quite handily, ever since he took office.

Brian Baird represents my part of the world, Washington's 3rd Congressional District. The district is geographically large, with both urban and rural issues. Many jobs depend on public and privately owned timber. There are wild salmon and oyster farms, along with freeway overpasses and the sprawling boulevards of suburban Clark County. And there's ideological diversity, with Thurston County liberals living next door to Lewis County conservatives.

Baird, a Democrat, has served since 1999. I first met him in 1996 when he was running against the incumbent Republican Linda Smith. He lost, but believed enough to give it another shot--and he won the next election. And that goes to show you what drew me to the man: He's a very positive person. It's probably a natural trait, but I can guess that his background in psychology also shapes his personality.

I think his finest moment was in 2003, voting against the Iraq war. There was so much anxiety and nationalist hysteria in those post-9/11 days. President Bush presented us with a false dichotomy: You're with us or with the terrorists. But Baird still said no to Bush's war, which angered many. Later, he supported a surge in forces--raising the ire of another segment of his constituents. I think his original no vote on the war gave him the moral authority to support the surge.

Importing liquefied natural gas on the Columbia River is a controversial issue. All the local lawmakers seemed to dance around it until Baird stepped forward, asking tough questions and demanding that Washingtonians have a greater voice regarding a facility that would be sited in Oregon, but only a stone's throw from the north shore of the Columbia. Baird's call for specific measures sent a signal to state and county officials, who then started speak up.

I can go on and on, but I'll just say thanks to Rep. Baird for his service, and wish him all the best. (BTW: When we see him, Darbury and I have noticed how much he gushes about his wife and kids!)

And speaking of the future, it's going to be a heck of a race in the 3rd CD this year. It looks like there's going to be a long line of candidates. The queue is starting to resemble the district itself; candidates who have announced, or who are considering it, stretch from South Bend to Olympia, then down I-5 to the Columbia, turning west to the coast again. I'm interested in how Washington's new top-two system will perform with an increasingly large field of candidates. Remember, the more candidates there are, the lower the threshold for getting in the runoff. To get ahead, candidates will have to know the issues of our area, and if they do, they'll sound a lot like Brian Baird.

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