First-term state Rep. Craig Haggard said he’ll run for Congress whenever incumbent U.S. Rep Jim Baird of Indiana leaves his post — whether that’s in 2024 or afterward.
Haggard said he’ll file with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday to create an exploratory committee. He won’t have to declare candidacy until next year: the monthlong filing window doesn’t open until Jan. 10, according to Indiana’s election calendar.
“My plan is not to challenge the incumbent,” Haggard told the Capital Chronicle in an exclusive interview.
“… The best way for me to put it is: I’m going to run for the Fourth Congressional District, period—when it’s ready to go—whether that’s in a month or two, whether that’s February 9, or after this next term,” he continued. “I’m running!”
But—despite rumors to the contrary—Baird announced last month that he would seek reelection.
Asked if he’d withdraw from the race if Baird files a declaration of candidacy, Haggard said there’s “nothing to drop out of yet” if he hasn’t yet filed his own declaration.
Baird’s son, Beau, has long been a rumored replacement. Haggard even noticed changes in campaign merchandise during parade season to just focus on “Baird” instead of using Jim Baird’s first name.
That wouldn’t stop Haggard.
“Of course I would (run)—this is the United States,” he said. “… I’ve heard that from some folks: ‘This seat, I bequeath it unto you,’ or a coronation of the (heir). I don’t like that. That’s not what our system is.”
Haggard, of Mooresville, was first elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2022, representing parts of Hendricks, Johnson and Morgan counties. He said he’d be running his state-level reelection campaign alongside the congressional campaign.
And he wasn’t worried about the prospect of leaving the Statehouse so soon.
“I spent my entire life in the real world,” Haggard said. “… I think everything that I’ve done has kind of prepared me for what I’m doing now. I quickly, my first year, was able to wrap my head around how things worked. I got one of my first bills authored.”
Haggard, a small business owner and commercial broker, previously worked as the Indiana field representative for the National Rifle Association for six years, according to his Statehouse biography.
He began his career with an 11-year stint as a naval aviator for the U.S. Marine Corps, according to his LinkedIn. He served as an active Indiana Air National Guard reserve member for another 11 years afterward, until he retired in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel.
Haggard’s first bill shielded some handgun carry permit information from federal requests, according to Johnson County-based Daily Journal. But while Hoosier Republicans have maintained supermajorities in both legislative chambers for more than a decade, congressional majorities are typically slimmer and prone to flipping with elections.
“Maybe it’s the Marine Corps. side of me that doesn’t mind beating my head against a rock,” Haggard said. “… We could still do better in every aspect of Indiana politics, but I think the real threat to our country to our future … is on a national scale.”
He named the national debt and China as national security threats.
Haggard acknowledged that “it’s hard to get stuff through” Congress, but said, “I just want to be in the fight.”
Republican Charles Bookwalter is directly challenging Baird, in contrast to Haggard’s conditional timing. He’s raised $129,000 as of Sept. 30, with $94,000 cash on hand, according to his campaign. He filed a bid with the FEC in May after an unsuccessful attempt in 2022.