Redistricting’s Latest Victim: Barney Frank

Redistricting’s Latest Victim: Barney Frank


Conversation about the impact of redistricting and how it all shakes out in 2012 typically centers in on states in the South and West.  Experts want to know what the map will look like in terms of Black and Latino voters or the purple states that may go full red with the GOP controlling a good grip of state houses.

You never really hear much talk about redistricting in blue Northeastern states like Massachusetts where its first Black governor (and potential 2016 Presidential contender) Deval Patrick (D) recently signed off on a new congressional redistricting map.  Interestingly enough, while the Bay State lost one of its 10 Congressional seats, it gained its first seat ever concentrating Black, Latino and Asian voters.

That happened last Monday.

What a difference a week makes. Soon after, longtime, 16-term and openly gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank announces that he’s permanently bowing out of politics.  While he initially claimed he was just ready to move on – offering the conventional hot air platitudes about being tired of the game and wanting to catch up on a bucket list – insiders know better: Frank wanted a graceful exit before getting pummeled in what would have been an exhaustive re-election race in 2012.

Somewhere in there, behind the headlines is … the deal.  How Patrick essentially signs off on the political obituary of a Congressman who endorsed him early on for his historic gubernatorial bid is a big question.  Frank’s endorsement certainly took Patrick over some serious hurdles and provided a fundraising boost no doubt.  Either Frank fell out with Patrick at some juncture or Frank just wasn’t useful to Patrick anymore.  Maybe Patrick, eyeing a trip to Washington at some point, made a deal with state legislators hungrily fixated on Frank’s new seat.

Or maybe he was really tired, still licking wounds from a caustic reelection battle in 2010. Plus, being in the minority under in the current political climate is not the best feeling. He reflects on that a bit in a POLITICO piece by Jonathan Allen:

Frank also leaves the House with a stark conclusion about the political system: The people won’t let Congress do its work.

“To my disappointment, the leverage you have within the government has substantially diminished,” Frank said. “The anger in the country, the currents of opinion are such that the kind of inside work I have felt best at is not going to be as productive in the foreseeable future and not until we make some changes.”

Many lawmakers privately concede that it’s increasingly difficult to legislate in an era in which the political bases reject compromise and interest groups are ready to criticize every move they make. And while there were other factors, including the prospect of a tough reelection, that influenced Frank’s decision, it’s telling that such a prominent and successful legislator thinks he can do more to advance public policy if he leaves public office.

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Here’s Glen Johnson, Noah Bierman and Donovan Slack in The Boston Herald:

The Newton Democrat faced the prospect of a bruising reelection campaign next year after surviving a brutal battle in 2010. He also would have run in an altered district that retained his Newton stronghold but encompassed more conservative towns like Walpole.

In addition, Frank lost New Bedford, a blue-collar city where he had invested a lot of time and become a leading figure in the region’s fisheries debate.

“I don’t have to pretend to be nice to people I don’t like,” the famously irascible Frank told reporters and supporters during an early afternoon news conference at Newton City Hall.

Turning serious, he said: “It would have been a rough campaign,” adding, “I don’t like raising money.”

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Glen Johnson, back at the Boston Herald, reports on Republican celebrations following the announcement:

National conservatives lost one of their favorite foils in August 2009 when Senator Edward M. Kennedy succumbed to brain cancer.

Yesterday they lost another constant target, Representative Barney Frank, when the Newton Democrat announced he would not seek reelection next year.

“Barney Bails,” blared the afternoon headline on the Drudge Report, which tilts decidedly to the right.

Author Matt Drudge appended a yellow smiley face, as well as an accompanying piece with a tenuous link to Frank’s announcement: “Happy Days: Dow Surges,” read that headline.

Local Republicans, meanwhile, stepped up to take credit for the surprise announcement. It came nine months after Frank vowed to seek a 17th term next fall, and just two weeks after Democrats in the Legislature completed a redistricting plan that did not force Frank into a runoff against one of the his congressional colleagues.

Instead, he faced a likely rematch against Sean Bielat, a former Marine who gave Frank a stern challenge a year ago.

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Who’s going after Frank’s seat in 2012? David Catanese in POLITICO:

The Associated Press reports two Democratic state senators are interested: Cynthia Creem and Marc Pacheco.

Former U.S. Senate candidate Alan Khazei is also being floated by some Massachusetts Democrats, who are citing his political connections and ability to fundraise.

Another former U.S. Senate candidate — Newton Mayor Setti Warren — has already taken his name out of the ring.  “I am not running for Congress,” he said definitively.

David Simas, a Taunton native who worked as a top policy adviser to Gov. Deval Patrick, might have been considered a successor.  But he just recently signed onto working for President Obama’s reelection campaign, a likely barrier to pursuing the open seat.

CBS in Boston reports that Frank’s 2010 Republican opponent Sean Bielat is seriously considering another shot at the seat, even though he’s currently residing in Philadelphia.

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