Monday, November 28, 2011

Democract Barney Frank Won't Seek Re-Election In 2012

By Glen Johnson, Noah Bierman and Donovan Slack, Globe Staff - US Representative Barney Frank, the state’s highest-profile congressman and one of the nation’s leading liberal voices after being among its first openly gay elected officials, planned to announce today that he will not reelection next year.
Barney Frank
A top adviser told the Globe that the new district in which Frank would have had to run next year was a major factor in his decision. While it retained his Newton stronghold, it was revised to encompass more conservative towns like Walpole while losing New Bedford, a blue-collar city where the Democrat had invested a lot of time and become a leading figure in the region’s fisheries debate.
Frank’s campaign manager last year said his withering 2010 re-election effort spurred the congressman to think seriously about retirement, even saying a few days after the election that it would be his last one.
Frank wanted to announce that this would be his final term immediately afterward, but decided against it, said Kevin Sowyrda, the campaign manager.
“We looked him right in the face and said, ‘You can’t resign,” Sowyrda said. “In fairness to Barney, he was emotional about it. He said, ‘I know I’ve got to stay.’”
“I believe that Barney felt an obligation to come through for the (supporters) people that came through for him,” said Sowyrda.
But retirement has been on his mind ever since.
The congressman scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference at Newton City Hall “to formally announce and answer questions about his decision not to run for re-election in 2012,” according to a statement.
“After that election, he began the process of contemplating a different future with different challenges,” Sowyrda said.
John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said in a statement: “In a state that has sent many great leaders to Washington, Barney Frank will take his place in history as a shining son of Massachusetts.”
Former party head Philip W. Johnston told the Globe: “He was brilliant, funny, acerbic, strategic, and unashamedly liberal. And they’re in short supply these days.”
Frank, 71, was raised in New Jersey but schooled at Harvard University and Harvard Law School, endowing him with a street-fighter’s mouth and an academic’s wit.
He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972 and the US House eight years later.
In 1987, he became the first member of the chamber to voluntarily acknowledge he was gay. Two years later, he was involved in a scandal in which a live-in boyfriend operated a gay prostitute service from his home. The House ended up reprimanding Frank for the incident.
More recently, he has been one of President Obama’s most important allies but also a target of Republicans. They accuse him of helping create the country’s housing collapse by pushing the government and banks into approving loans to unqualified buyers.
Frank faced a stern reelection challenge last year from Republican Sean Bielat, prevailing 53 percent to 43 percent but only after a blistering campaign.
He also shifted from chairman of the House Financial Services Committee to its top-ranking minority member when Republican regained control of the House of Representatives in last year’s midterm elections.
Frank, who co-authored the law overhauling financial regulation and spearheaded its passage as chair of the Financial Services Committee last year, acknowledged himself in February that he had contemplated retirement after last year’s race.
But he said after GOP lawmakers took over the House and began targeting the financial overhaul he authored, he decided he needed to try to keep his job.
“Some very important programs are at risk,’’ he said then.
The announcement comes a week after Governor Deval Patrick signed a law creating the new state congressional districts. Another Democrat in the delegation, US Representative John Olver, announced in October that he would not seek reelection next year amid the specter of being forced into a showdown with US Representative Richard E. Neal of Springfield.
Frank has depended on his hometown of Newton, as well as Brookline and the Democratic strongholds of Fall River and New Bedford to keep his seat the last three decades. But he lost New Bedford and picked up additional conservative voting towns west and south of Boston and in Bristol and Norfolk counties.
Sowyrda said Frank wanted to hold off on a decision until the redistricting process was finalized.
“When Barney saw the district changed, his exact words to me were ‘They didn’t do me any favors,’” said Sowyrda, who has remained an unofficial adviser.
“The redistricting plan was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” added Sowyrda. “I think if they left the district with New Bedford in it, you would see him running again.
“The texture of the district had changed.”
Sowyrda predicted Frank’s next chapter will include the classroom.
“This guy has talked to me about teaching for years,” he said.

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