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The infantrymen whom Jim Baird led in Vietnam fondly called him “pig farmer” because of his passion for breeding pigs. Now, nearly a half-century after he was helicoptered out of a firefight in which he lost his left arm, Baird answers to a new moniker: congressman.
He’s the only rookie legislator with a science Ph.D. on the newly reformulated science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. And he’s the only Republican among the three members of the 37-person panel holding such a degree.
Year - Dozen - Candidates - Training - Seat
Last year, some four dozen candidates touted their scientific training in seeking a seat in Congress. All but a few were Democrats, and most were harsh critics of how science has fared under President Donald Trump.
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Not Baird, who ran as a self-proclaimed “conservative Republican” in the solidly red Indiana district where he grew up that stretches west from the suburbs of Indianapolis. Although he earned a doctorate in animal nutrition from the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington in 1975, during the campaign Baird instead chose to highlight his military service, including his year in Vietnam in 1970–71, his farming background, and the 4 decades he spent as a small businessman.
Strategy - Campaign - Seat - Baird - Favorite
The strategy worked brilliantly. Running a bare-bones, mostly self-financed campaign for an open seat, Baird upset the presumed favorite in the Republican primary—the brother of the man that Indianans last fall elected to the U.S. Senate, no less—and then trounced his Democratic opponent in November 2018. He was sworn into office on 3 January.
Last week, Baird won a seat on the agriculture committee, his first choice, giving him a voice on issues vital to his rural district. He also agreed to serve on the science committee. It’s a much less prestigious post—Republicans are still...
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