Brian Baird's Boat

by: Matt Stoller

Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 21:43


This is interesting.

Tucked away on Seattle's Portage Bay, a sleek, 85-foot speedboat sat idle for years - save for an annual jaunt to maintain its engine.

The Navy paid $4.5 million to build the boat. But months before the hull ever touched water, the Navy gave the boat to the University of Washington. The school never found a use for it, either.

Why would the Navy waste taxpayer dollars on a boat that nobody wanted?

Blame it on Sen. Patty Murray and Congressmen Norm Dicks and Brian Baird. All three exercised their political muscle to slip language into a 2002 spending bill to force the Navy to buy the boat from Edmonds shipbuilder Guardian Marine International.

Year after year, the Washington lawmakers did favors for the tiny company, inserting four "earmarks" into different bills to force the Navy and Coast Guard to buy boats they didn't ask for - $17.65 million in all. None of the boats was used as Congress intended.

The congressional trio say they were helping Guardian Marine because it had a great product. But each has also received generous campaign donations from the company's three executives, its sole employees: $14,277 to Baird, $15,000 to Murray, and $16,750 to Dicks.

This nexus, between Bush Dogs and corrupt practices, just keeps popping up.  I've spoken with a number of savvy local political figures, activists and insiders, and by most accounts, Brian Baird's a terrifically smart and cynical Congressman.  Whether it was voting for the Bankruptcy Bill, acting badly on Terry Schiavo, or changing his mind on the surge to pull in right-wing support, he's been able to hew a relatively conservative line on some key issues because of memories of Republican Linda Smith, the crazy evangelical he beat in 1998.  Baird's upset a good number of local activists with his bad Iraq stance, and rumor has it that he reduced one longtime supporter to tears.  He's also upset environmentalists on his logging work, and the distict is shifting along with the country to a more strident progressive and antiwar stance.

With this earmarked useless boat done in return for political purposes, Baird has lost even more goodwill and opened up a clear spot for a primary challenger in 2008 or 2010.

Matt Stoller :: Brian Baird's Boat

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Brian Baird's Boat | 14 comments
As someone who lives in the district (4.00 / 1)
I don't see a primary challenge happening. Activists tried to get former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic to jump into the race against Baird but he declined. There really aren't any high profile challengers out there trying to get in the race. I've talked with party activists who think Baird might just be gearing up to retire, and I know someone who used to work for him who said he had ambitions to be governor one day. We have a Democratic governor running for re-election, so it will be at least 4 years before Baird gets his shot at that office.

I agree that people are upset about Baird's current position on Iraq, but much like they did with Maria Cantwell in 2006, they're willing to give him a pass on the issue because he's good on other issues. And while Baird's position on Iraq doesn't necessarily fit my end of the district (Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey is more liberal) the folks in the southern and southwestern parts of the district are more conservative, rural Democrats, and his position might be ok with some of them.

I'm not here to defend Baird, though I will say that he's always doing town hall meetings throughout the district on a routine basis. Just want to provide a view from the district.


i hear differently (0.00 / 0)
Baird has the local Democrats locked up, but there's a good deal of anger from activists.  Obviously no high profile Dems will take on Baird; that's why they are high profile.

[ Parent ]
Baird challenger (4.00 / 1)
As an activist who was the one who asked Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic to run against Baird, I think there are lots of reasons for someone to challenge Baird.  Even though many party loyalists will still SAY they support him, there is widespread discontent in SW Washington about his votes on a range of issues as well as much criticism of how he deals with those that disagree with him.

An effective challenger could find himself/herself swamped with grassroots support although on the surface many will still say that they support Baird.

The problem is not whether Brian Baird should be challenged, that is rather obvious.  It is finding a special someone that will give him a run for the money, literally and figuratively speaking.

Any takers?


Good point (4.00 / 1)
The problem is not whether Brian Baird should be challenged, that is rather obvious.  It is finding a special someone that will give him a run for the money, literally and figuratively speaking.

I agree with you there, I just don't see a viable taker stepping up to the plate yet.

I go to Thurston County Democrats meetings monthly and I don't hear anybody beating the drums to replace Baird. And if the activists who pay attention to votes on issue and how he deals with people who disagree with him aren't talking about a challenge, I'd like to know who out there is talking about it. I'm not saying you're wrong, I just don't see what you're talking about in my neck of the woods.


[ Parent ]
Clark County disappointment (0.00 / 0)
My comment was meant only with what I know is happening in Clark County.  There have been rumblings for quite a while. The Iraq flip flop was the "camel's back".

[ Parent ]
Clark County (0.00 / 0)
Yeah. I'd heard that there were some angry people down in Clark County over the flip flop on Iraq. What other issues has Baird let people down on in your neck of the woods?

[ Parent ]
Other disappointments (4.00 / 1)
Voted for the bankruptcy reform bill, says people must take personal responsibility (but gives a pass to the loan shark lenders).  Supported interfering in the decision to humanely disconnect life support for brain dead Schiavo.  He touts putting the sales tax deduction back in the IRS code without mentioning it only benefits 37% of Washington taxpayers, the upper 37% of income earners.  He is now trying to sell a health insurance bill that only health insurers could love.  The original post mentioned environmentalists are upset with his support for a logging bill.

I know you never agree on everything and he has done lots of good things but at some point you have to say enough is enough.


[ Parent ]
The challenger... (4.00 / 1)
...if there is one, can't be from Thurston County.  It has to be someone from Clark or a related county where it can be shown that they have been able to be an effective civic or  political presence in an area with at least a "Reagan Democrat" attitude a large chunk of that area's mindset.  Otherwise, for better or worse a candidate from the Olympia area, even if they really live in, say Tumwater, will be challenged as an "elitist" that lives among the folks in the capitol.

Given that Vancouver/Clark County fits that requirement pretty well, anyone from that area might be a best bet.

My two bits...


[ Parent ]
Agreed (0.00 / 0)
A Thurston County challenger would likely be viewed as too liberal for the rest of the district. I agree that the challenger needs to come from Vancouver/Clark County. I should also disclose that I work with Craig Pridemore and think he'd be a great challenger.

FWIW, I'm from Tumwater and I'm not an elitist...LOL


[ Parent ]
Possible Challenger (0.00 / 0)
After I posted my last comment, I remembered a conversation I had a week ago with someone about Baird's seat. The person I was talking to mentioned State Senator Craig Pridemore as a potential successor to Baird. To be clear, this was not Pridemore expressing interest in challenging Baird, or even in running for the seat if Baird were to retire. It was someone expressing admiration for Craig and the work he's done in the state Senate.

[ Parent ]
Please Pridemore, make us proud (4.00 / 1)
Everyone sees Craig doing this but, so far, Craig. 

[ Parent ]
Maybe people need to let Craig know (0.00 / 0)
Organize a draft movement or some sort of campaign to have his constituents contact his office and tell him to run.

[ Parent ]
I'm from Skamania County, (0.00 / 0)
and I have commented on this previously - there will be a primary challenge to Baird. The current discussion advances the subject in that, yes, Pridemore would be viable. I have asked a few people to contact him, but no response yet. Of course, besides his interest in the race, one of the main points will be to determine his stance on the occupation. If the discussion goes beyond that, we will have to see where he stands on other national issues, as well.

As to the southwest part of Baird's district - the party activists are appalled by his stance on the occupation, and, as suggested in the earlier comments on this thread, there are some other issues, too. Having said that, I have to add that I personally support most of his positions, aside from this major exception, and I know other activists who feel the same.

Our state party chairman has stated that he does not see a likely challenge to Brian, but I wasn't expecting any help from that direction. Interestingly, at the recent state meeting a resolution was passed unanimously, calling for an end to funding the "war" except for withdrawal purposes. The interesting part was that it was written as a letter to Bush, rather than as a state party position for our Congresscritters to enact. Looks to me that it was couched thus to avoid offense to Baird.

We are just getting started on this search, and we feel that the deadline for establishing a candidate is mid-Spring. The primary is in August.

By the way - did I mention that I'm running for president?


From a non-constituent who believes... (0.00 / 0)
...that this ain't the 18th Century anymore and that I've right to, at the very least, express my opinion on legislators who are wrong on national issues I've only two words for you good folk up there in WA:

'Git Him!'

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.


[ Parent ]
Brian Baird's Boat | 14 comments
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