As Frank Retires, The 'End Of An Era' For Mass.

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Nov. 29, 2011

WGBH political reporter Adam Reilly, Harvard Institute of Politics director Trey Greyson and former state Sen. Warren Tolman discuss Frank's retirement on "Greater Boston."


BOSTON — After 32 years in Congress, Barney Frank was ready for two more. But then, a new district map came out, expanding his political territory for the 2012 race. And the idea of reaching out to 325,000 new constituents was enough to call it quits.

“If I were to run again, I would be engaged full-fledged in a campaign, which is entirely appropriate, nobody ought to expect to get elected without a contest. But the fact that it is so new makes it harder, in terms of learning about new areas, introducing myself to new people,” Frank said during a press conference announcing his decision on Monday.

At 71, Frank said he wasn’t up to the rigors of a modern-day election battle.

“Look, I don’t like raising money. I would have to start now raising another couple of million dollars,” Frank said.
 
Frank has faced re-districting before -- and won. In 1982, just one term into his Congressional career, he defeated Republican Congresswoman Margaret Heckler after their districts were combined.

Since then, Frank has all but coasted to re-election, winning most contests with at least 67 percent of the vote. But with the way the district was just redrawn, could the race in 2012 have been too close to call?

Tufts University Political Science Professor Jeff Berry said this district would have remained Democratic. “Its’ a bit more Republican than it was in the past, but the heart of the district are Newton and Brookline, which are very Democratic, and very liberal, cities,” Berry said.

Berry says Frank’s retirement marks the end of an era. “This is no longer Kennedy’s Democratic party, John Kerry is probably in his last term, Barney Frank is gone, John Olver is now gone, so we’re in a transition,” Berry said.
 
As an outspoken Massachusetts liberal, Frank has been a target of Republicans nationwide, from Reagan to Gingrich and so many in between. 

In 1987, he was the first Congressman to voluntarily acknowledge he was gay. His most embarrassing moment occurred in the late 1980s when his relationship with a male prostitute became public, leading to a House reprimand.

But Frank emerged from scandal to become one of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As the recession hit, he helped broker deals during the sub-prime mortgage crisis; as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he oversaw the financial industry during one of the most turbulent economic times in history. His name is attached to a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations, known as the Frank-Dodd act, aimed at preventing another mortgage crisis.  

Frank said after he leaves office, he’d like to teach and write, and maybe get around to finishing that doctoral thesis. "I think I have the longest uncompleted phd thesis in Harvard history haunting me, and there are other things I’d like to do," Frank said.

 Frank is also known for his quick wit, and as he announced he wasn't running, he took the opportunity to share the best part. “I don’t have to even pretend to be nice to people I don’t like,” Frank said.

barney frank in 1989
Rep. Barney Frank addresses a luncheon in 1989. His Congressional career began nine years earlier, in 1980, and on Monday he announced it will end at the end of this term. (AP)


MORE: BARNEY FRANK'S INTERVIEW WITH WGBH

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