Shenanigans alert: GOP congressman reportedly trying to hand seat off to son

Republican Rep. Jim Baird is not only planning to retire, reports Howey Politics, but he also appears to be timing his departure so his son can succeed him without facing any serious intra-party opposition.

An unnamed source tells the tipsheet that the congressman is "definitely not going to end up running" for a fourth term representing Indiana's dark red 4th District, and his office didn't return a request for comment from Howey.

Howey's source says that Baird has imposed "a practical hiring freeze" and hasn't had a chief of staff since February. They also relay that the incumbent's son, state Rep. Beau Baird, is one of two people who does "all the office management." The source posits that the elder Baird could announce his retirement on the Feb. 9 filing deadline, making it very difficult for anyone without advance knowledge to join the race. Alternately, he could do so after winning the May 7 primary, a scenario that would empower party officials to pick a new nominee.

Either way, says Howey's source, "Beau can try to waltz in." The 4th is conservative turf that includes the western Indianapolis suburbs and part of west-central Indiana that voted for Donald Trump 63-34, so whoever wins the primary would be all but assured of serving in Congress.

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While it remains to be seen if this anonymous individual is right about Jim Baird, who won his seat following a 2018 primary upset, there are several instances of House members timing their departures so that a close confederate could "waltz in."

In 2010, for example, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican, announced on the final day of candidate filing that she was abandoning her reelection campaign for health reasons and said that Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent would run in her place. The swap was so unexpected that one paper incorrectly identified the new candidate as Ted Nugent, but the sheriff went on to easily win the GOP nomination and three terms in Congress before retiring himself―albeit long before the 2016 filing deadline.

A more infamous comes to us from Illinois in 2004 when Democratic Rep. Bill Lipinski, despite rumors of his impending retirement, easily won renomination for a 12th term, only to declare months later that he would indeed call it quits. Party leaders, including the congressman himself, were tasked with picking his replacement, and they went for his son, Dan Lipinski. The younger Lipinski, who had recently returned to the Chicago area after teaching in Tennessee, had no trouble winning the general election. However, thanks in large part to his conservative views and hostility to abortion rights, he eventually lost renomination to Marie Newman in 2020.    

Sometimes, though, these switcheroos don't go according to plan, especially if word leaks before the incumbent wants it to—as it may have in Indiana. Kentucky Rep. Ron Lewis tried to dispel rumors of an impending 2008 retirement by telling House Republicans he planned to run again, and he even filed reelection papers with the state. But the NRCC didn't believe him, prompting clued-in state and national Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to make sure that state Sen. Brett Guthrie was prepared to put his own name forward in case Lewis tried to make a late exit.

They were right to be on guard. Minutes before filing closed, the wife of the congressman's chief of staff, Daniel London, turned in candidacy papers on behalf of her husband and a separate set to remove Lewis' name from the ballot. But Guthrie was waiting and, with what Politico said was "just one minute to spare," handed in his own forms before submitting the requisite $500 check "just five seconds before the filing window closed."

Those five seconds made all the difference. London ended his campaign a short time later and endorsed Guthrie, who went on to win without any intra-party opposition and continues to represent the 2nd District today. The incident proved embarrassing for Lewis as well.

"I would like to publicly apologize for my poor judgment and humbly ask for the forgiveness of all those who I have let down," the departing incumbent said after his preferred choice dropped out. "There are no excuses for how I chose to manage my announcement. I regret it deeply and want to do all that I can to put it right and restore your faith in me during my remaining time in office."