Friday, December 11, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

To the next Congressman, or woman

Love him, hate him or merely tolerate him: Brian Baird was – and still is, despite this week’s announcement of his retirement after 10 years in Congress – a man more practical than ideological.

Whether it is skepticism over healthcare reform, unfailing support of the military, or a fiscally-conservative voting record spread over six terms in the House of Representatives, Baird has been an almost-perfect mirror of the values shared by a clear majority of his constituents.

He’ll be a hard one to replace.

Nevertheless, the jockeying to fill his shoes in the 3rd District is well under way – especially on the right side of the aisle, with Olympia financial consultant David Castillo, Washougal City Councilman Jon Russell, YouTube healthcare town hall sensation David Hedrick, and perhaps, state Rep. Jaime Herrera all in the GOP mix.

Though it may be hard to predict who will emerge from what promises to be a tough primary next year, here’s some advice for any of Baird’s would-be successors:

Keep it about business and leave the partisan party politics alone.

While many might not agree with Baird’s votes on healthcare, the Troubled Asset Relief Program and this year’s economic stimulus package, there’s no doubt of his willingness to buck his own party to weigh the cost vs. benefit for his constituents.

And in regards to TARP, Baird displayed a true grit rare for a career politician, meeting earlier this year with business interests and ex-depositors after Bank of Clark County’s implosion, defending his decision to support the bailout in front of a tough audience.

It was at that meeting that Baird spoke, not as a member of the Democratic caucus, but as the region’s advocate in the halls of Congress.

Match that bipartisan spirit with David Castillo’s recent invective against the science behind climate change or David Hedrick’s Internet rant on healthcare reform, and the differences seem stark indeed.

Baird was reelected five times because he knew Southwest Washingtonians prefer practical solutions to party ideology every day of the week, twice Sundays.

Let that be a lesson for anyone, Republican and Democrat, looking to succeed him.