Barney Frank re-election
Barney Frank re-election _Barney Frank, D-Mass., announced Monday he is not seeking re-election, saying that redistricting has made it too strenuous to continue to campaign.
The 16-term lawmaker, whose name is emblazoned on the banking reform law that passed Congress last year, had long been rumored to be ready for retirement. He said Monday that he actually decided "tentatively" to retire after passage of the law, serving out one more term, but when Republicans won the 2010 midterm he decided he didn't want to be a lame duck so didn't announce his plans until now.
With his typically candid and confrontational tone, he added he was looking forward to not having "to pretend to be nice to people I don't like" in retirement and took jabs at his Republican opponents, especially former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a rising contender for the 2012 presidential nomination.
"I do not think I have lived a good enough life to be rewarded by Newt Gingrich being the nominee," he joked.
Frank, who became one of the first openly gay lawmakers, later added, "I look forward to debating, to take one important example, the Defense of Marriage Act with Mr. Gingrich."
"I think he is an ideal opponent for us when we talk about just who it is threatening the sanctity of marriage," Frank said, making a thinly-veiled reference to Gingrich's two messy divorces, three marriages and admitted affairs.
The 16-term lawmaker helped push Wall Street bailout legislation through Congress and co-authored the Dodd-Frank legislation that introduced broad regulatory reforms following the financial crisis. His efforts were backed by consumer groups and other Democratic organizations but were vilified by his Republican critics.
"Because he's such a colorful figure -- smart, quick-witted, sharp-tongued -- it is easy to focus on that public persona," Barbara Roper, Consumer Federation of America director, told MarketWatch.
"But look past the surface and you'll find one of the most effective legislators we've seen in recent years. And, despite the barbs that are aimed at him by the right, he is effective precisely because he knows when and how to make the deals that are necessary to win a bill's passage."
President Barack Obama issued a statement on Frank's retirement saying, "This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him."
Frank, 71, is the most powerful Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, which he chaired from 2007 until Democrats lost the House majority in the 2010 midterm elections. With his retirement, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) will be set to ascend to the top Democratic spot on the committee.
During the last election cycle, Frank faced his first major challenge in nearly three decades when Republicans nominated Sean Bielat, a 35-year-old businessman and former US Marine, for Frank's House seat.
Bielat made waves but had little chance of beating a powerful incumbent in a strongly Democratic-leaning district, where President Barack Obama won 61 percent of the vote in 2008.
Democratic sources told The Washington Post that they are not worried about holding the seat, although redistricting will make it slightly less Democratic.
Massachusetts is set to lose one of its 10 House seats in 2012. Frank explained that his newly drawn-up district would include 325,000 new constituents and exclude thousands of people he has represented for years -- meaning some of his advocacy work would be rendered politically irrelevant.
He also said he had never planned to run in 2014 -- by the end of that term, he would be 75 -- and thought it would be difficult to ask a group of new constituents in 2012 to trust him as their advocate knowing he would leave in two years.
Frank's decision makes him the seventeenth House Democrat this year to announce plans to step aside to seek higher office or to retire, according to FOX News Channel. Frank's fellow Massachusetts Democrat Rep. John Olver, who assumed office in 1991, decided a few weeks ago not to run for another term. Republicans, meanwhile, have announced seven retirements this cycle.
Frank, a New Jersey native, has earned a reputation as a sharp debater, quick to engage in verbal spars with opponents. He once told an angry woman at a public forum on the Obama administration's health care overhaul that he would not argue with her, saying he "would rather argue with a dining room table," according to The Wall Street Journal.
Read more: nypost