28 November 2011

Barney Frank to Shuffle Out of Congress

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA 4th), the 16 term Congressman from Newton, Mass., has announced that he will not seek re-election.  Eschewing the typical rationale of retiring in order to spend more time with his family, Frank was frank about admitting that his decision was driven by redistricting.  

In February, it was clear that Frank may have his seat adjusted due to redistricting, as the Bay State needed to eliminate a Congressional district due to the 2010 Census.  But what is surprising is that Commonwealth legislators did not protect their elder stateman in this process.  Frank is the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, who Rush Limbaugh dubbed  the “Banking Queen”. Frank had the Chair when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needed Congressional Stewardship as well as the Federal foreclosure fiasco.

Massachusetts state Democrat legislators and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) controlled the entire redistricting process. The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Redistricting pitted incumbents Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA 9th) and Rep. William Keating (D-MA 10th) in a newly configured 8th Congressional District. In redrawing the electoral map, Frank’s district was significantly changed by losing the southern portion of the district which had white blue collar citizens and added more suburban voters.

Frank admitted that he was ambivalent about standing for office again, but when the new Congressional District’s lines were finalized, Frank came out and declared that he was retiring so that other candidates could position themselves for the upcoming race.  What was fishy about Frank’s announcement was attributing his decision to not run for losing coastal constituents.  Frank would have needed to re-introduce himself to about half of the new district which might not have been an easy sail. Frank had a competitive race in 2009 to Republican challenger Scott Bialat which he eventually topped by 11 points but the incumbent had to run hard in the solid Blue Bay State.  Frank probably determined that it would be a real race in 2012 with little prospect of regaining power in the House, despite the wolfing of DCCC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20th).

The new Congressional District that Frank is fleeing voted to re-elect Gov. Patrick, yet it supported Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) in the 2010 special election, so it could be up for grabs.  There is some speculation that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling might run.

Another ramification of Frank’s retirement is that the likely successor to the Ranking Member position in the House Financial Services Committee would be Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA 35th), a proud member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus which would be quite comfortable with the supposed income redistribution aspirations of the Occupy Movement. 

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