A moderate Baptist pastor’s wife who appears in a Baptist Center for Ethics DVD about faith and politics won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a seat in Congress.
Two-term Missouri State Representative Judy Baker now faces Republican nominee former state Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer for an open seat in Missouri’s 9th Congressional District.
Baker, a political newcomer when elected to the Missouri House in Representatives in 2004, defeated three veteran politicians in the primary. Her 44 percent of ballots easily outpaced former House Speaker Steve Gaw’s 31 percent, former Sen. Ken Jacob’s 12 percent and 13 percent for Marion County Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode.
Baker appears with her husband, John, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., in “Golden Rule Politics: Reclaiming the Rightful Role of Faith in Politics,” an educational DVD produced last year by the Nashville, Tenn.,-based BCE.
A 48-year-old mother of three, Baker earned a master-of-divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 1986, at a time when ministry doors were closing to women in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. She turned to a career in healthcare, serving as a managing partner of Cura Advantage and an adjunct professor of managerial economics at Columbia College.
She remains active in her church’s Sunday school, missions and youth ministries. When she decided to enter public service, she told EthicsDaily.com in 2005, she viewed it as an extension of her original calling to ministry.
Government “can be a great calling consistent with being an active and involved Christian,” she said. “My current calling is to the public arena, where Christian ideals can inform public code.”
“Golden Rule Politics,” a 36-minute documentary with an accompanying study guide, challenges a political myth constructed over 25 years by the Christian Right that the Republican Party is America’s moral party and the party of God’s favor.
In the DVD, Baker described her reception in the Missouri politics, where many didn’t know what to make of a Baptist minister’s wife running as a Democrat.
“I’ve been a Christian practically all my life, a confessional Baptist Christian deeply rooted in my faith and very well rooted in my Bible,” she said at a screening of the DVD in 2007. “When I was running, first of all Democrats were suspect of me because I was a Baptist, and Republicans were suspect of me because I was a Democrat.”
“What this DVD is about is you can be both of those things, and there is a myth out there you cannot,” she said. “If we equate God with any political party, we will give God a bad name.”
In endorsing her for the congressional primary, the Columbia Tribune praised Baker for “a sterling record in the Missouri House of Representatives.”
“She has grown fast in office, earning a reputation as a smart, tough and ethical legislator,” the newspaper said. “She works hard to learn about issues. She supports her causes in a way that leaves no doubt where she stands yet earns respect from her adversaries. She has shown she can be an excellent member of Congress. The district and the nation would be well served by her election.”
The editorial went on to laud “her wonderful personal attributes.”
“She defends her ideas with honesty and grace,” it said. “Her instincts are as good as one could find in a candidate for public office. She would be a smart and honorable representative in Congress.”
Baker also won endorsements from the National Education Association; EMILY’s List, one of the nation’s largest political action committees and financial resources for women running for elective office; and 21st Century Democrats.
Her contest is the first race for an open seat in the House of Representatives in northeastern Missouri since 1976. Both candidates hope to succeed Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof, who instead of seeking re-election is running for governor.
The 9th Congressional District stretches from northeastern Missouri to the western suburbs of St. Louis.
First Baptist Church of Columbia is affiliated primarily with both the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The church also provides support for the Alliance of Baptists.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.