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Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank ’61-'62, one of the most powerful democrats on Capitol Hill, announced yesterday that he would not seek reelection in the House of Representatives in 2012.
Frank said that he felt compelled to choose between “a full-fledged campaign” and “my obligation to my current constituents.”
Though Frank had originally indicated that he would run for another term, election forecasts predicted a difficult reelection due to the redrawing of his district that added 325,000 new constituents and did not include New Bedford, a bedrock of support for the representative.
“It would have been a rough campaign,” Frank said at a press conference in Newton City Hall on Monday.
Frank said that he had long planned to retire in 2014 and felt that his new constituents would be short-changed if he stepped down after only two years as their representative.
“Starting on a series of projects only to be passing them along in various stages of incompletion to a successor two years later is not a responsible way to act,” Frank wrote in a statement.
Frank said that he would like to concentrate on teaching and writing in the coming years.
“I have the longest uncompleted Ph.D. thesis in Harvard history haunting me,” he said.
Many said that they are sorry to learn of Frank’s departure from the political scene.
“We won’t have anyone as bright and effective as Barney in a very long time, if ever,” said Newton resident Barbara A. Gaffin.
Adan Acevedo ’13, president of the Harvard Democrats, echoed these sentiments.
“He’s one of the greatest congressmen we’ve had in recent history because of his devotion to Wall Street reform,” Acevedo said, referring to a bill he co-authored, the Dodd-Frank Act—a historic overhaul of the rules governing Wall Street following the economic meltdown in 2008.
The bill, which was signed into law in 2010, was hailed by President Obama as “the most sweeping financial reform in history.”
Frank has served in Congress for 30 years, having represented Massachusetts’ 4th District for 16 terms since 1981.
Frank is also famous for being the first openly gay member of Congress. He voluntarily came out in 1987, as the gay rights movement began to gain momentum.
“The best antidote to prejudice is reality because prejudice by definition is based on ignorance,” Frank said. “I am proud by my finally coming out—I was 47. It didn’t happen in a clean sweep, but when I volunteered finally to come out in 1987, I do think it was helpful.”
Frank said that though he made plenty of enemies throughout his political career, he has remained committed to his values and ideas.
“I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like,” he said.
Supporters said that Frank does not shy away from his opponents and is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs.
“He’s the smartest guy in the room,” said Steve Bartlett, the head of the Financial Services Roundtable, a major Wall Street lobbying group, to the New York Times. “In a debate, you want to be on the same side as Barney, and if you’re not on the same side, you should re-evaluate being in the debate at all.”
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