Barney Frank Will Not Seek Re-Election
Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank announced earlier on Monday, Nov. 28, that he will not seek re-election in 2012.
Speaking to reporters in Newton, Mass., Frank said that redistricting essentially prompted his decision to leave Congress.
"I was planning to run again, and then congressional redistricting came," he said.
Frank, 71, has represented Massachusetts’ Fourth Congressional District since 1981. He publicly came out of the closet in a 1987 interview with the Boston Globe. The House Ethics Committee in 1990 formally reprimanded Frank for using his congressional office to pay 33 parking tickets that a male escort who he had hired as an aide and personal driver had accrued.
Frank later became one of Capitol Hill’s most powerful politicians. He chaired the House Financial Services Committee from 2007 until earlier this year. Frank also co-sponsored the Dodd-Frank Act that expanded financial regulatory oversight and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He also played a key role in the 2008 Wall Street bailout bill.
"In a state that has sent many great leaders to Washington, Barney Frank will take his place in history as a shining son of Massachusetts," said John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
He, along with U.S. Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), are Congress’ only openly gay and lesbian members.
"Barney Frank has exemplified true leadership over his more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
Solmonese, who worked for Frank on one of his first congressional campaigns, lauded his former boss’ role in the repeal of ’don’t ask, don’t tell’ and the addition of gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law.
"As the first openly gay Member of Congress, Barney defied stereotypes and kicked doors open for LGBT Americans," said Solmonese, adding Frank’s record goes far beyond LGBT-specific issues. "His service as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during a time of great economic upheaval made a gay man one of the most powerful people in the country and he used that power for great good. America, Massachusetts and LGBT people are better off for Barney Frank’s service."
Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias also weighed in on Frank’s announcement.
"God knows he’s earned the rest," he told EDGE. "But, boy, will the House ever be the poorer for the loss of its smartest, funniest, most passionately progressive and pragmatic member."
President Barack Obama described Frank as a "fierce advocate" for the people of Massachusetts and "Americans everywhere who needed a voice."
"He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable," said Obama. "He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them. And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis from ever happening again."
Frank told reporters that he would like to write, teach and lecture once he leaves Congress. He also pointed out to reporters that he would like to debate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
"I’m not retiring from advocacy for public policy," said Frank. "I was pretty good at being a legislator. I think I was pretty good at working within that framework of government. I look forward to being able to help change the system."
Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.