Baird decides six terms is enough

WASHINGTON - Just months after taking on angry town hall demonstrators, Washington Democratic Rep. Brian Baird said Wednesday he will not seek re-election to a seventh term.

In a surprise announcement, Baird said he wanted to spend more time with his family and pursue other options. He did not elaborate.

“This is not an easy decision to be sure, but I believe it is the right decision at the right time,” he said in a news release.

Baird, a mostly moderate to liberal congressman from Vancouver, has handily won re-election in southwest Washington’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes much of Thurston County. Among other things, he successfully championed allowing people to deduct state sale taxes on their federal income tax returns, which has saved Washington state residents more than $500 million annually.

During the August congressional recess, Baird initially refused to hold town hall meetings, saying angry demonstrators that had interrupted town hall meetings elsewhere in the nation had a “lynch mob mentality.”

Baird later relented and faced down hostile crowds. Over the years he has held more than 300 town hall meetings.

Though Obama carried it in 2008, Baird’s district has pockets of deep conservatism and it was unclear whether his comments this summer had done any lasting damage.

Baird said the town hall flare-up had nothing to do with his decision to retire.

“It’s not about a tough election,” Baird said in an interview. “I am confident I would win.”

Baird said that over the Thanksgiving recess he sat down with his wife to discuss the future.

“For the sake of our family, I decided I need to do something else,” Baird said. “We have been going full bore for years and we decided it was time for a breather.”

Baird has twin sons, 4 years old.

“I have no specific plans,” Baird said. “I won’t rule out another election bid, but for now this is the right thing to do.”

Baird’s support for the Bush administration’s troop surge in Iraq drew angry attacks from his more liberal constituents.

He was one of the few Democrats on Capitol Hill to support the surge and House Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, weren’t happy with him.

Baird never backed down and said Wednesday he was “proud” of his position on Iraq.

More recently, Baird has been skeptical about President Obama’s decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

Les Blumenthal: 202-383-0008