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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

May 27, 2011 at 9:05 AM

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Baird calls chances of 1st District run "very low"

Posted by Jim Brunner

When Democratic Congressman Brian Baird retired from his 3rd District seat last year, he didn't return to southwest Washington.

Baird moved to Edmonds, fueling speculation he might run for the 1st Congressional District if (okay, when) Jay Inslee runs for governor in 2012.

Baird encouraged those rumors to an extent when he mentioned to a reporter that he could use his surplus campaign funds -- $450,000 at last count -- for a future run for office.

At first glance, a recent Federal Election Commission filing also raised questions about his plans.

Baird charged his campaign account $14,562 for "moving expenses back to district," according to an FEC filing. That was to pay a professional mover. Baird also reimbursed himself $17,300 for "moving/travel expenses."

Those charges were for his move from Washington D.C. to Edmonds, Baird said. A check of FEC rules confirms that's legal -- a retiring member of Congress can use surplus campaign money to pay for moving office and personal furnishings "back to the member's home state."

In an interview this week, Baird said while he understands how it may look to some, the chances of him running for Congress, or any office, in 2012 are "very low."

"The reason I moved up here was so we could be closer to family," Baird said, referring to his wife's relatives in the area. "Politics was not a factor at all in our decision."

The couple bought a $775,000 house in Edmonds last August, records show. Baird sold his Vancouver home last March for $183,000.

Baird said he is committed to being a stay-at-home dad to his 6-year-old twin sons. His wife, Rachel Nugent, is an economist specializing in global health issues and travels extensively.

While not ruling out a future campaign, Baird said for now the political cliche about wanting to spend more time with his family really applies in his case. Still, he's hanging on to that campaign fund, just in case. FEC rules also allow him to donate the money to charity or to other political committees.

Baird, who represented southwest Washington for a dozen years, is a political contrarian who frequently angered the liberal wing of the Democratic party. He voted against the Iraq war, but supported the military surge in 2007. He was one of 39 House Democrats who voted against the health-care overhaul last year.Correction: As some commenters pointed out, Baird initially voted against the health care bill in the House, but voted yes on the final product.

On his way out the door, Baird left behind a self-published book that bashes both parties.

It's hard to know where Baird would fit politically if he did run again.

In our brief chat, Baird said Medicare should be replaced as an entitlement with something not far from the voucher system proposed by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan.

At the same time, he said Republican talk about fiscal responsibility can't be taken seriously given their rigidity on taxes.

"The Democrats don't want to talk about entitlements and the Republicans don't want to talk about tax increases. I'm sick of it," he said.

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