Rep. Frank won’t run for reelection
By Russell Berman and Josh Lederman
11/28/11 09:54 AM ET
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will announce Monday that he is not seeking reelection, ending a 32-year career in the House.
71, is the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and the
architect, with former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), of the sweeping Wall
Street regulatory reform law enacted in 2010.
He is scheduled to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. in his district,
according to a spokesman, who said the congressman would announce at
that time the reason for his decision. His retirement will deprive the
House of one of its most colorful characters, a man known for his quick
and often caustic wit.Elected in 1980, Frank survived scandal
early in his career and rose to become the nation’s most powerful
openly-gay elected official. After coming out publicly, he became a
champion for gay rights and helped campaign for an end to the military’s
ban on gays serving openly, which ended this year.
His legislative legacy is likely to be the Dodd-Frank
financial reform bill that passed in 2010 in the wake of the Wall Street
meltdown that sent the economy into a tailspin in 2008. Hailed by the
Obama administration, the law has drawn sharp criticism in the
Republican presidential nomination fight, and one leading contender,
former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), even suggested that Frank be
jailed, along with Dodd, for their support of the mortgage giants Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac in the lead up to the financial crisis.Although
Frank's district was made slightly more competitive for Republicans
during redistricting, Democrats were adamant that Frank’s retirement
would not change the game and that the seat would remain safely in
Democratic hands. In 2008, 63 percent of voters in the district chose
President Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.); under the redrawn
boundaries, 61 percent would have gone for Obama.
It was not
immediately clear whether concerns over his reelection prospects — or
fears that Democrats will be unable to wrest back control of the House —
factored into Frank’s decision. The party has been publicly sanguine
about their chances to flip the 26 seats they need to retake the
majority, but political handicappers are leery of those claims in light
of Obama’s sinking poll numbers.
Frank had no trouble winning
reelection for more than two decades, capturing 68 percent of the vote
in 2008. But the changing political climate and the special election of
Republican Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) in early 2010 gave the GOP reason to
be bullish in Massachusetts, and Frank faced a tougher-than-expected
reelection later that year, coming in just 11 points ahead of Republican
Democrats said Monday that Frank’s decision was a
long time coming and did not catch them off guard, but had no potential
candidates to float to replace him.
But attention turned Monday
to the handful of former Senate candidates who dropped out of the
Democratic primary after Elizabeth Warren entered the race in October.
Those include entrepreneur Alan Khazei, the Senate race’s initial
front-runner, and Setti Warren, the mayor of Newton, Mass., where Frank
On the Republican side, Elizabeth Childs, a physician and school board member, had already announced plans to challenge Frank.
announcement came one month after another Massachusetts Democrat, Rep.
John Olver, made public his plans to leave the House at the end of the
term. That retirement spared Democrats — who control every seat in the
state’s congressional delegation — from an unpleasant intraparty battle.
Massachusetts lost one House seat in the redistricting process, and
Olver’s retirement allowed Democrats to draw a map with one less
district without an incumbent-on-incumbent primary contest in 2012.Democratic
National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called
the 71-year-old congressman a "historic pioneer in American politics."
is a man of incredible intellect. A powerhouse who has championed the
rights of consumers in the financial services community," Wasserman
Schultz said on a conference call with reporters Monday. "I really have a
heavy heart today. I'm going to miss him terribly."
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh also praised Frank's service.
has been a tireless advocate for justice and equality who has stood up
for Massachusetts’ fisherman, fought for economic development on the
South Coast and provided the driving force behind landmark Wall Street
reform legislation," he said.— Erik Wasson contributed.
This story was last updated at 12:44 p.m.
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