Double victory for Bairds; Beck wins District 4 Democrat nod

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
On the verge of a Republican nomination for U.S. Congress, Jim Baird chats with a fellow voter Tuesday evening at the Putnam County courthouse.
Banner Graphic/Jared Jernagan

Tuesday was a big day for the Baird family.

While Greencastle Republican Jim Baird was winning a seven-man Republican primary for District 4 U.S. Congress Tuesday, his son Beau was posting a lopsided triumph in the GOP primary in an effort to succeed his father as District 44 state representative.

On warm, sunny spring day, 6,021 of the 23,367 registered Putnam County voters had their primary ballots counted. That computes to a 25.77 percent turnout in the first-ever local election conducted using voting centers.

Whatever the manner of voting, nothing could stop Jim Baird or his son either for that matter.

Jim Baird, who gave up his District 44 Indiana House seat after eight years to seek the District 4 congressional spot vacated by Todd Rokita in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, outdistanced former Indiana Workforce Development Director Steve Braun to easily capture the Republican nomination.

The impressive Baird victory came just five days after a mailer attacking Baird was sent out criticizing his vote on the Indiana gas tax by saying he was going to cost Hoosiers “an arm and a leg” with his vote.

The ad, attributed to a Super PAC rather than a single candidate, was deemed despicable by all accounts since Army veteran Baird lost his left arm during combat in Vietnam. The timing of the mailer may have backfired on its senders since Baird outpolled two opponents, Braun and Morales, who heavily outspent him in the race.

In the fall general election, Jim Baird will now go up against Tobi Beck of Avon, who Tuesday won a six-person race for the Democrat bid for the District 4 seat with 36 percent of the vote.

Baird carried Putnam County by nearly 3,000 votes Tuesday, triumphing over Braun locally 3,529-658 with Diego Morales a distant third at 312.

With 90 percent of 602 precincts counted in the 16-county Fourth District that covers much of west-central Indiana, Baird was leading with 28,753 votes. Braun was second with 23,280, followed by Morales, 11,833; Jared Guy Thomas, 8,376; Kevin Grant, 3,596; James Nease, 2,063; and Timothy Radice, 1,010.

The Associated Press declared Baird the winner about 10 p.m. and Braun conceded soon thereafter.

On the Democrat side in the District 4 congressional race, Beck, like Baird a military veteran, polled 288 Putnam County votes to 198 for Veronikka Ziol and 149 for third-place Joe Mackey.

Putnam County GOP Chairman and District 44 State Representative nominee Beau Baird (left) looks over state results with County Councilman Keith Berry.

Meanwhile, Beau Baird’s GOP primary victory over Jess L. Norton of Raccoon sets up a unique District 44 Indiana House showdown of Putnam County political party chairmen. Baird, who chairs the local Republican party, will now square off against Kim Fidler of Greencastle, who chairs the Putnam County Democrats, in the November general election.

Fidler, who polled 841 votes while unopposed in the Democrat primary, will be making her second run at the District 44 state representative spot. She lost to Jim Baird in the 2016 vote influenced so heavily by President Donald Trump’s overwhelming victory in Putnam County and Indiana.

In ending Norton’s hopes, Beau Baird collected 65 percent of the local GOP vote Tuesday. The local margin was 3,034-1,602.

In the race for U.S. Senate at the top of Tuesday’s ticket, Putnam County mirrored the overall Indiana vote among the three Wabash College graduates -- Mike Braun, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer -- seeking the Republican bid to face incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly in November.

Mike Braun, brother of Steve, took 38.88 percent of the local vote in outpolling Rokita by 21 Putnam votes, 1,849-1,828. Luke Messer was third with 1,079 votes locally.

Statewide Braun earned 41 percent of the vote with Rokita getting 30 percent and Messer 29.