An era ends as Barney Frank announces retirement

Congress' most prominent Liberal voice to leave Congress after 32 years

Several media outlets including the Wall Street Journal  and CNN are reporting this morning that Congressman Barney Frank (MA-Democrat) will not seek re-election in 2012 and will instead retire. At 71, Congressman Frank has long been a strong liberal presence in Massachusetts and Washington, DC.

Frank's announcement, which according to his office was to be made officially during a press conference at 1 p.m. in Newton today, is an about face on his earlier announcement to seek re-election. In fact, BarneyFrank.net, the site paid for by the Barney Frank for Congress Committee still states, "Barney is running again in 2012...because he has much more to do for the 4th District and for our country."

Congressman Frank has served 16 terms since first being elected in 1980. In the 2010 election, Frank faced stiff competition from Republican Sean Bielat, eventually besting the conservative and retaining his long held seat.

He told reporters today that he planned to write and lecture and maybe even relax. He said, “I have the longest uncompleted Ph.D. thesis in Harvard history haunting me.”

The present Fouth Mass. District has changed drastically over the centuries. Ironically it once was called the District of Maine when the Pinetree State was part of Massachusetts.

Recently, a redistricting plan unveiled at the beginning of the month, reshaped the districts of Mr. Frank and several fellow representatives in Massachusetts.

A member of the Democratic Party, he was the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee (2007–2011) and is considered the most prominent gay politician in the United States.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Frank graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He worked as a political aide before winning election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 with 52 percent of the vote. He has been re-elected ever since by wide margins. In 1987 he came out as gay, becoming the first member of Congress to do so voluntarily. From 2007 to 2011, Frank served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, where he remains the ranking Democrat.

Fellow Congressman Bill Keating released the following statement regarding Barney Frank's announced retirement: "I worked with Barney both on the legislative side and on the executive side as District Attorney.  Too many times, an announcement like today’s is viewed as an ending.  Personally, I don’t view it that way.  I will continue to value Barney’s friendship and counsel, and wish him the best in all he chooses to do in the future."

Barney Frank's present 4th District includes these seven towns in Plymouth County: Halifax, Lakeville, Marion, Mattapoisett, Middleborough, Rochester and Wareham.

One of the first to announce he would run for Frank's seat was Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter.

Read the NY Times report here, and the Globe report here.

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