Joe Baca

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 06/12/15 – 11:25 PM PDT |

Joe Baca, a longtime Democrat who represented San Bernardino County citizens for more than 30 years as a trustee for the San Bernardino Community College District, an assemblyman, state senator and congressman, is now a registered Republican.

Baca, 68, of Fontana, changed his party affiliation on June 2, said Melissa Eickman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Elections Office.

Prior to making the switch, Baca had been a registered Democrat in San Bernardino County since January 1976, Eickman said.

Baca said Friday he and his wife thought long and hard about the decision, which he said reflects his “core Christian values” and his pro-growth, pro-business philosophy.

As a legislator, Baca said he often voted conservatively on many issues. He said he secured funding for transportation and infrastructure projects in his district, and fought to delist from the endangered species list the kangaroo rat, the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly and the Santa Ana sucker fish, all of which he said were hindering commercial development and growth in his district.

“I’ve always been very conservative in nature,” Baca said, adding that in the House of Representatives he was often accused of being a Republican and asked why he didn’t change his political party.

Baca is a former member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a congressional caucus of moderate and conservative Democrats whose members are referred to as “Blue Dogs.”

Baca said he was a Blue Dog during his entire seven-term stint as a congressman.

“It’s always difficult when you change, but it follows my core Christian values and how I voted the majority of the time I was in office,” Baca said.

The change comes in the wake of three unsuccessful runs at public office that began in 2012 with a loss to then-state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, a Democrat, for a House seat, followed by an unsuccessful second bid for Congress in last year’s primary election. He then eyed the Fontana mayor’s seat, hoping to be the first Latino elected mayor in that city, but lost by a landslide to incumbent Acquanetta Warren in the November general election.

Baca decided to retire from politics after that, but made it clear he wasn’t completely closing the door on that chapter of his life.

Baca grew up in Barstow and served in the Army from 1966 to 1968. His political career began in 1979, when he was the first Latino elected to the San Bernardino Community College District board of trustees. He went on to win seats in the Assembly and state Senate before being elected to Congress and serving from 1999 to 2013 as a member of the House of Representatives.

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