By Tim Sahd and Reid Wilson
Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) announced his retirement tonight, becoming the third Dem in a vulnerable seat to announce his departure in the last few weeks. "The time has now come to pursue other options, other ways of serving. Hence, I am announcing today that I do not intend to seek reelection to Congress in 2010," Baird wrote in a statement. "This is not an easy decision to be sure, but I believe it is the right decision at the right time."
The CD, with a Cook PVI of EVEN, is a very fertile open seat for GOPers to attack. And they instantly found a top-tier candidate in state Rep. Jaime Herrera (R), who told GOPers she'd be a candidate almost immediately after Baird's announcement. The former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) has been groomed for the seat, and WA Dems privately concede she'll be a tough candidate.
Dem sources, meanwhile, believe state Sen. Craig Pridemore (D) and state Rep. Brendan Williams (D) are potential candidates to replace Baird. Pridemore is from Vancouver, and Williams is from northern Thurston Co.
Baird never had any difficulty winning re-election in this southwest WA CD; indeed, the 55% he took in winning his first term in '98 represented his toughest contest.
But it is a swing CD, as Pres. Bush carried it in '04 with 50%, and Pres. Obama won it four years later with 53%.
As a moderate, Baird angered voters across the spectrum. His vote against the health care bill led the local AFSCME co-chair to warn, "With a no vote, you have placed yourself on the wrong side of history, and on the wrong side against your constituents."
And this summer, ret. Marine David Hedrick (R) gained overnight fame among the Tea Party crowd after he confronted Baird for at first refusing to hold townhalls. Baird told the Olympian: "It's a lynch-mob mentality out there. There is an ugliness to it."
Baird is the third Dem in as many weeks to call it quits. Reps. Dennis Moore (R-KS) and John Tanner (R-TN) are the other two Dems, and all three sit in very marginal CDs. Dems explained Moore and Tanner's retirements away as individual cases, and not the beginning of a coming wave of retirements.
But Baird's decision, which was unexpected, is sure to crank up expectations for further retirements. The NRCC was quick to jump on the news. "With this being the third retirement by a swing-district Democrat in as many weeks, it is clear that members of the Majority are feeling the ground shaking beneath them," NRCC chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) wrote in a statement.
So far, nine Dems have announced they're leaving the House at the end of the term, and GOPers are targeting at least six of those seats. On the other side, 12 GOPers have announced their retirements, but only three are considered vulnerable to takeover.