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Baird Move Sets Off Competitive Scramble

Rep. Brian Baird’s retirement announcement Wednesday afternoon has undoubtedly made the Washington Democrat’s 3rd district seat competitive for Republican strategists looking for House takeover opportunities in 2010.

Within hours of Baird’s announcement, one Democratic state legislator joined the race with at least one viable Republican — a sure sign that a top-tier open-seat race will unfold.

State Rep. Deb Wallace (D) announced she is running for Baird’s seat. The longtime Vancouver resident is a four-term lawmaker and will likely be a top candidate for Democrats.

However, several other Democrats are thinking about bids. State Sen. Craig Pridemore is publicly considering jumping into the race, along with state Rep. Brendan Williams. Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart is also often mentioned as a potential candidate.

On the Republican side, state Rep. Jaime Herrera, a former staffer for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), is strongly considering getting into the race. National Republicans have already indicated that they believe Herrera would be one of their best candidates.

But it appears Herrera could still face a competitive primary if she gets in the race.

Republicans already had a few candidates running against Baird, the strongest of which was former Bush administration official David Castillo.

Castillo, however, never gained much traction because his fundraising so far has been disappointing. Castillo reported raising only about $53,000 through the end of September after entering the race in April. The Olympia resident and former House Republican Caucus chief of staff, however, boasts the backing of many local Republicans including several members and leaders in the state Legislature’s GOP caucus.

The two other Republicans in the race already, accountant David William Hedrick and Washougal City Councilman Jon Russell, are not expected to be top-tier candidates.

Other Republicans, including state Sen. Don Benton, state House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt and state Sen. Joe Zarelli, are also thinking about running and are expected to decide in the next few days whether they will get into the race.

Baird has won re-election with comfortable margins since he came to Congress more than 10 years ago. In his first race in 1998, Baird won by his lowest winning percentage margin ever — 55 percent.

Meanwhile, Baird’s district has been competitive on a national level. President George W. Bush won the district with 50 percent of the vote in 2004; then President Barack Obama carried it with 53 percent in 2008. Obama’s 8-point winning margin in the 3rd district last year is actually smaller than his 15-point margin of victory in Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-Wash.) frequently targeted 8th district.

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