Frank: 'I Do Not Choose To Run'

By WGBH News

Nov. 28, 2011

barney frank

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is surrounded by members of the media after announcing he will not seek reelection in 2012, Monday, Nov. 28, 2011, in Newton, Mass. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

BOSTON — It's official: Rep. Barney Frank's 16th term will be his last.

"I do not choose to run for Congress in 2012. I have gone through some changes," Frank said at a press conference Nov. 28 at Newton City Hall. "Last year, particularly around the time of the signing of the financial reform bill, I tentatively decided I was going to make this my last term. I spent a very busy and somewhat stressful four years with the financial crisis, first dealing with the crisis and then dealing with the legislation to make it less likely that we would have another one. I then had, as is appropriate, a very spirited campaign for re-election. And my view was that I could do my job best of fighting for the public policies I care about by making this my last term."

Frank discusses his decision to retire (part one). (11 min. Right-click to download the file.)

The cause, he said, was redistricting. The new state district map changed his constituency dramatically. That would mean cultivating a lot of new voters.

“Look, I don’t like raising money. I had to raise several million dollars last year," Frank said. "And I’ve been raising it this year; I have probably close to $600,000 in the bank. I’ll continue to have in this new district, or whoever runs, will continue to have two media markets, because you’ll still have enough of the southeastern/Providence market. I would have to start now raising another couple of million dollars. And as I said, I think I’d win, but what’s relevant to me is I could not put the requisite effort into that.”

Frank had planned to retire by age 75 anyway, he said.

"He’d rather spend his time this term fighting for the overhaul of financial regulations that he authored," WGBH News' Sarah Birnbaum said from the scene. That, and he felt no longer had his old influence in policy decisions, Birnbaum said: "It's just too divided now and the Republicans and Democrats are living in separate worlds."

Frank discusses his decision to retire (part two). (12 min. Right-click to download the file.)

That's pretty much what political observers Charles Baker and Shannon O'Brien had theorized before the conference, in a conversation on "The Emily Rooney Show." 

O’Brien pointed out that the new district map would require Frank to cultivate new voters. “It’s going to be a more difficult race, a more taxing race,” she said, “and then you have at the end of the rainbow… not a great prize.”

Along with that, Baker suggested that, “a lot of it probably has to do with the fact that he’s concluded that the Republicans will probably hold on to the House,” and it’s a lot more fun to be in Congress “when your team has the ball.” 

There are, however, consolations, Frank said at the conference: "I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like."

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