Richard H. Baker (born May 22, 1948),a American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1987, representing the 6th District of Louisiana (map). The district is based in the state capital, Baton Rouge, and includes much of that city's metropolitan area.
He was born in New Orleans and graduated from Louisiana State University. He stayed in Baton Rouge after graduation and founded a real estate agency there. In 1971, just a year out of school, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives as a Democrat from a predominantly blue-collar district in Baton Rouge and served eight terms, eventually becoming chairman of the Transportation Committee.
In 1986, Baker switched to the Republicans because of a long-running feud with Governor Edwin Edwards. Soon afterwards, 6th District Republican Congressman Henson Moore, announced that he was running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Russell B. Long. (Moore was defeated in that race by 7th District Democratic Congressman John Breaux). Moore encouraged Baker to run for the seat. No other candidate filed to run, ensuring Baker's election. He was reelected without opposition in 1988 and 1990. Baker quickly compiled a very conservative voting record, in marked contrast to his Democratic roots.
In 1992, however, Louisiana lost a congressional seat as a result of reapportionment after the 1990 Census. Clyde C. Holloway of Forest Hill, who had represented the Alexandria-based 8th District, was placed into Baker's district. Holloway had been elected along with Baker in 1986. The two Republicans had been the fourth and fifth members of their party to represent Louisiana in Congress since Reconstruction, but Holloway was only the second Republican to win an undisputed victory against a Democratic opponent. Holloway won the jungle primary with 37 percent. In the November runoff, Holloway won 15 of the district's 17 parishes. Baker, however, crushed Holloway in the two largest parishes, Livingston Parish and his home base, East Baton Rouge Parish. This was enough to defeat Holloway by some 2,700 votes overall.
After being unopposed in 1994 and 1996, Baker faced his first Democratic challenger ever in 1998. That year, Marjorie McKeithen, daughter of longtime Republican Louisiana Secretary of State Fox McKeithen and granddaughter of former Democratic Governor John McKeithen, ran against him. Court-ordered redistricting before the 1996 elections had drawn considerably more blacks into the district than Baker had previously represented. Amid a nationwide backlash against Republicans for what was seen as overzealous behavior during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Baker just barely held onto his seat by over 1,000 votes. He had a much easier time in 2000, winning 68 percent of the vote. Redistricting took some Democratic voters out of his district, including Pointe Coupee Parish, which helped Baker win against no major-party opposition in 2002 and two weak Democrats in 2004.
Baker is chairman of the House Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee, and is also a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Baker caused some controversy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when he was overheard telling lobbyists: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Baker later explained that he has long wanted to improve low-income housing.
Because of an influx of Democrats to the 6th District following Hurricane Katrina--mostly refugees from New Orleans--Baker's seat may be highly competitive in 2006.