Indiana House District 44 takes in the farm belt of western Indiana, centering on Putnam County and including parts of four others. It has been represented for the past decade by father and son James and Beau Baird, owners of a family farm and one of the state’s largest quarter-horse breeders. Both have diversified well beyond their agricultural interests, and politics is only part of their story. A decorated Vietnam veteran who lost his left arm in combat, James Baird holds a Ph.D. in animal science and owns a home health care agency of which Beau is CFO. After four terms in the Indiana House, he ran for Congress in 2018 and upset a better-funded opponent for the Republican nomination.
His win in the general election was sweetened by his son’s election as the new representative for District 44. Beau Baird was his father’s campaign manager, is Putnam County Republican chairman, holds a Purdue MBA and is pursuing a second master’s in finance from Harvard. Baird, like his father, has kept a low profile among legislators in his first term, seldom speaking from the floor and avoiding anything controversial. His first bill to pass and be signed into law added eight plants to the state’s official list of noxious weeds to be destroyed. But while his father favored agricultural issues, Baird’s legislative focus appears initially to relate more to the other family business. In 2020, as Republicans identified controlling health care costs as a legislative priority, all four of the bills on which he was primary author related to health care, most involving consumer protection; none made it out of committee. Baird was among House Republicans to follow leadership in voting against an amendment to remove rape and incest as exceptions to the 2022 abortion ban, and voted for the ban with the exceptions intact on its final passage.
Greencastle, the Putnam County seat and home of DePauw University, has a two-party system that is more viable than most in the state’s rural stretches. Baird’s father unseated an incumbent in 2010, ending a two-decade run in which Democrats usually held the District 44 seat. Since then, the family has kept a lock on it. Baird was elected in 2018 by the same 2-to-1 margin that his father enjoyed, and since has not been challenged in either the primary or general election. – Kevin Morgan