Monday, November 16, 2009

Is running a primary opponent against Baird (or any other Dem who voted against health care) a bad idea?

In the last week or so, I've heard some amazement about Rep. Brian Baird's vote against the health care package in the house. This is amazingly similar to the shock that local Dems felt over two years ago when Baird announced he was going to support a Republican plan in Iraq.

Baird ended up facing a somewhat weak opponent who couldn't rally enough support to win the primary or a vote of Precinct Committee Officers to win the nomination.

If he ends up facing a much stronger Republican (he smoked his opponent in 2008) or more than token Democratic opposition, its interesting to see folks reactions. You would think that a city council-member from the most liberal corner of Baird's district would rip into him, but no.

Says Joe Hyer (sorry for the long cut and paste but this came over email):

I have heard a lot in the past two weeks about our Congressman, Brian Baird...most of it negative. And I have to say, I have been a little bit surprised. I support health care reform- check that, reform doesn't go far enough, I support a health care revolution. I think it should be universal, accessible, and cover everyone.

I also believe that we will have NO WAY to achieve this or any other goal (strong education, a social service net, a healthy environment, infrastructure, etc) if our economy fails, or our government goes bankrupt. We are seeing TRILLION dollar deficits at this point ... when just 5 years ago, we were criticizing those who caused deficits of a few hundred million. The long term economic costs of a deficit this size are monumental. Couple that to the unfunded mandate of health care for our veterans returning from the War, social security, and our falling apart infrastructure ... and the federal budget becomes FAR more significant of an issue than any other we face.
If we cannot finance solutions, then we cannot solve ANY of our problems in this country.

And the federal deficit and national debt or massive, massive problems that will stifle growth, eliminate our chance to solve problems, and potentially cause an economic collapse on a global scale. You can only print money for so long before someone asks if it is worth anything. Yes, most of this debt was created under republican Presidents ... but that's neither here nor there at this point- it's our debt, and we have to deal with it.

I have not heard anyone disagreeing with Brian Baird's REASONING on the health care vote. Let's know HOW MUCH IT COSTS before we approve a package. Sure it's only estimates ... but if we are going to increase the deficit with this package, perhaps it creates a stronger argument to scale back our foreign military commitments in the next two years. Perhaps it indicates we need stronger revenue streams to offset this. The real issue- the DEBT and size of the DEFICIT, is going to be underlying ANY initiatives the president wants to accomplish.

Over the last 30 years, the data shows that Democrats are fiscally conservative on spending and taxes, and Republicans are building up huge debts and deficits. So why is it that the perception in this country is that republicans are fiscally conservative, and democrats are 'tax and spend'. It's 100% incorrect based on the data...but perception is almost always created by things other than facts and data. The reason, I think, is that on key issues, we don't get the full analysis on costs, then the Republicans use it against us in the next election cycle. We cannot afford to have this reputation moving into the future. We ARE the party of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, and we need to keep proving it our citizens.

I have also heard negativity towards Brian Baird because he didn't 'support the president'. I have to say, I don't remember Obama asking for 'yes men'. In fact, I remember quite the opposite. I remember a campaign where differing opinions were valued, where dissent is a part of coming to the best solution. I remember an intelligent campaign that suggested all points of view should be counted and considered, because that's what open dialogue and debate are about. The last president was all about 'yes men' and falling into line when required...and I don't remember those years as ones history will look kindly on. I think Brian supports our President, supports change ... but ALSO believes strongly that Congress should only pass good legislation that works, and that is fiscally responsible.

Hence his fight for adequate time to read a bill before voting on it. Hence his argument that we should know what something costs before we pass it.

I have known Brian Baird for more than a decade, and consider him a friend, a leader, and an intelligent public servant. I have disagreed with him on issues, and defended him on others. I have lobbied him for more than 5 years on health care issues and I know one thing for certain- he is committed to health care reform, to lowering costs and increasing access, and to ensuring everyone has coverage. I didn't read this Health Care bill, and its thousands of pages. I don't know what it will cost us, or its impact on the deficit. That's why I have Brian, to be my expert. The citizens of Olympia don't want to know everything about sewer policy or zero waste...that's why they hire me, to be their expert. In the same way, I don't know the details of the health care bill, and whether or not there's a fatal flaw in the details. In the press release from my Congressman, I read that we did not yet know the full costs and budget impacts of this proposal, so he was unable to support it. If they gave less than 3 days before a vote, I would ALSO have expected his no vote, because he is committed to a good government process on all legislation.

It seems to me we need good process in's been lacking for a long time. Openness and transparency, good fiscal analysis, sound legislation- this is what we, as democrats, value most. I am not sure, in the end, if I agree with Brian's reasons for voting against the bill. I am not sure how I would have voted if I were in his place. I do know that he is a strong advocate for our district, for the environment, for the economy, for our communities, and I know that he is committed to being fiscally responsible, open and transparent, and restoring the citizen's faith on how Congress conducts business. I also know he listens...having changed his mind myself on several issues over the years.

Given all that, while I may disagree with him from time to time, I am still proud to say Brian Baird is OUR Congressman, and he has my support.

Joe Hyer
TCD treasurer and Fiscal Conservative

I have a problem with Joe's point that Olympians don't want to know about waste policy. Actually, I do. I may not read it, but I want to know its there for me to read at some point. I do expect Joe to know more than me at any given time, but maybe that's his point.

He basically says he understands Baird's reasons for not voting for the bill.

And, now down in Utah, a former U.S. Senate candidate, Pete Ashdown, gives a long list of reasons he won't be challenging a local Democrat who voted against the bill:

1. A Democrat who is more to the left than Jim Matheson could probably easily win a primary, maybe even settle this in convention, but in the end would lose the general election. I can think of no other county that exemplifies this more than Carbon County. This was traditionally a Democratic stronghold in Utah, but has gone Republican over the past decade. In 2006, Jim Matheson received 3,658 votes in Carbon County. In spite of canvassing Carbon County extensively and knocking on a few thousand doors, I received 2,255 votes. Conversely, Orrin Hatch rarely visits and received 2,408. I don’t see how deposing Jim Matheson would endear me to 1400+ people who otherwise voted for Senator Hatch.


3. In spite of Matheson’s votes, he is still warming a seat on the Democratic side of the aisle. 2010 is going to be Republicans trying to capitalize against President Obama’s agenda. Although I haven’t ruled out running in 2010, I don’t want to be contributing to the inevitable losses the Democratic party is going to face. If I was running instead of Matheson, the national GOP would pour resources into the race not because they care about Utah, but because they want their majority back.

4. In 2006, the Deseret News ran a poll on favorability ratings of Utah politicians. Matheson came out #1, higher than then Governor Jon Huntsman. Having him in office is a good thing for other Utah Democrats trying to get elected.

I think Ashdown's reasons for not taking on Matheson are analogous to the same situation for any local Democrat and Baird. Losing the 3rd District would mean that folks that currently vote Democratic in Grays Harbor, Pacific and other coastal areas (not Lewis or rural Clark counties) are giving their vote to a Republican. These are traditionally rural Democratic areas that could arguably start trending Republican at any point.

Losing the 3rd could mean more than getting a Linda Smith back, it could mean shifting the political landscape in Western Washington.

And, I get this impression that people who aren't all that politically motivated have a good impression of Baird. If he's the standard bearer for Democrats in Southwest Washington, then its good for downticket Democrats.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. It's a great idea.

I have a little different analysis.

Brian Baird is strictly a democratic name in Congress for democrats in this district unless you are a:

a. knee-jerk supporter of any democrat IN office,

b. supporter of democrats who vote against their party on critical votes solely for self-preservation (or belief in the same),

c. someone who actually buys Baird's roving logic - but the question is at which point, as Baird heads in so many directions on the same issue that you probably will find a match.

HERE'S A SAMPLER - Health reform is the most critical issue of our time ... but it costs too much.. don't like Obama or Clinton's plans just mine ... I'm for single-payer, er no I'm not ... they're brownshirts, oh sorry they're not ... we have no business in Iraq, except now we should stay and send in more troops... I'm pro-choice and agree with death with dignity, ah except when Congress should intervene and stop one family's decision on life and death (Schiavo).


Mark these words - a serious challenge by an elected official against Baird from Olympia, Pacific or Clark County would mark the end of Baird's tenure and receive significant support from outside orgs like move on.

Finally - ask yourself these questions - Do you want your Congressman, in the 3rd District in Washington, focusing on the following 2 issues of most importance:

a. Gaza and Ocean Acidification.
b. Deficit Reduction and tax reform.
c. Health Care reform and Jobs.
d. Immigration reform and Economic Policy.

If you picked (a), Brian's your guy. Any other answer ... move on to real representation for this District and ask Brian to stay in the other Washington full-time (almost as often as he does now).

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to have to agree to disagree with here, Emmett.

If Democrats are losing rural voters in the 3rd Congressional, it's because of Baird's reputation as not looking out for normal folks, especially since his vote for the punitive Bankruptcy Bill of 2005.

If Democrats are going to punish regular people for financial difficulty, than the Republicans will win every time on social issues.

And I would think that real Democrats are tired of supporting someone who votes with the Republicans on the big votes that really matter.

So the left in this district is really shut out. The spectrum of discussion gets to be between Brian Baird on the left and David Castillo on the right. That's not a debate, that's a cocktail party.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and further -- you just compared us to Utah. Seriously? I hadn't realized that the 3rd was now as conservative as districts in Utah, my bad.

Mark Derricott said...

Thanks for the post Emmett. It has already been said, but I must reiterate the contradiction embodied in Baird's votes over the last few years.

I can understand voting against heath reform for fiscal reasons but only if that rational is consistent across the board. (E.g. compels one to vote against military funding--especially through supplementary budget appropriations). I've never heard a peep out of Baird over his deep concern of the costs of the military spending.

The same goes for the TARP and the rest of the financial cacophony offered to those who need it least over the last 18 months. (I do want to recognize here that he has consistently supported extension of UE benefits for whatever that is worth.)

The writing is on the wall and one need not look too much further: (full disclosure: I am a complete cynic). How much does it take to win the WA-3?

Mark Derricott said...

Sorry second link should be this: