Clark Talks: Podcast explores independent, centrist PAC

Baird also discusses his disappointment with successor, Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Dems

By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer

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Brian Baird used to represent Southwest Washington in Congress as a Democrat. Now, he wants voters to get excited about centrism.

Last year, Baird teamed up with Chris Vance, a former King County councilor and chair of the state Republican Party, to launch Washington Independents. It’s a new political action committee that seeks to back independent, centrist candidates for public office in Washington.

Baird spoke with reporters Jake Thomas and Katy Sword on Clark Talks, The Columbian’s podcast now available for download, about why Washington and the rest of the country are ready for a third choice.

In addition to talking about centrism in the age of Donald Trump, Baird also weighed in on his disappointment with his successor Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground. In particular, he said Herrera Beutler hasn’t held enough town hall meetings and has gone along with the Republican Party’s agenda, which he said has become increasingly extreme.

Baird, who still identifies as a Democrat, also had criticism for his own party and said he wouldn’t vote to keep House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in her position if he was still in office.

“I think both parties have become too beholden to special interests,” he said. “I think there is too much insistence on party loyalty rather than responsible legislating.”

He suggested the country get back to its nonpartisan origins and called on the U.S. House of Representatives to elect an independent, nonpartisan speaker who would run the chamber fairly and ensure that lawmakers have a chance to actually read legislation and offer amendments.

Baird said that the project could be the groundwork for a third party some day. He said that Washington’s electorate, coupled with its open primary system, is fertile ground for the movement. When asked about the difficulty inherent in the project, Baird seemed optimistic that voters want a change.

“It would be pretty hard to say that the majority of the American people think that the two parties and the divisiveness we’ve seen in the Legislature and in the Congress are serving the people right now,” he said.

Also on the podcast, Thomas asks Sword about her upcoming Sunday story about the city of Vancouver’s lack of diversity in its workforce and its efforts to remedy the situation.

Closing the show is Thomas’ interview with State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, about the upcoming legislative session.

You can find the show on Soundcloud, or subscribe for free downloads on iTunes or Stitcher. Contact Sword and Thomas about the podcast at podcast@columbian.com.