WASHINGTON -- Representative Barney Frank announced this morning he will run for re-election in 2012, ending months of speculation that the 70-year-old from Newton was ready to retire.
Frank said in an interview his top priority is to defend the financial regulatory overhaul from Republican attempts to water it down or repeal it. The overhaul law passed last year was co-authored by Frank when he served as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
By announcing he is not stepping down, Frank puts pressure on Massachusetts lawmakers charged with re-drawing the state's 10 congressional districts. If none of the other nine US House members voluntarily bow out, two will be forced to run against each other in 2012 because Massachusetts lost a seat due to population decline.
Frank said questions about redistricting were one reason he decided to declare his intentions now, nearly two years before the next election.
"It kind of forces the pace," he said.
Frank, a member of Congress for more than 20 years, said he had contemplated retiring after his blistering re-election battle last November. He had concerns about his health and whether he could physically withstand another four years, he said. But he has since undergone a full physical exam, and save for some cataracts that are easily removed, he said he has a clean bill of health.
"When you're older, you need to make sure when you do something, you can handle it," Frank said.
He said his decision may have been different, however, if Democrats had maintained their majority in the House in the mid-term election last year. Frank believes that with Republicans in the majority, it is his duty to stick around and defend some of the Democrat's signature legislative victories in recent years, including the Dodd-Frank Act, the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression.
"Some very important progams are at risk," he said.
Frank's change in committee stature, as well as his tart Election Day criticism of some of the media coverage of his re-election campaign, fueled speculation he might retire.
In deciding not to do so, Frank only coarsens questions about the fate of the 10-member House delegation amid congressional redistricting.
The most likely possibility now for avoiding fratricide is if one of the members all of whom are Democrats decides to challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown when he seeks re-election next year.
Possible challengers includes Representatives Stephen Lynch of South Boston, and Michael Capuano of Somerville, as well as the dean of the delegation, Representative Edward Markey of Malden. Representative William Keating of Quincy is the newest member and has the least seniority, while Representative Niki Tsongas represents a conservative district yet remains the sole female in the delegation.
Another possible target for the redistricters is Representative John Tierney. The Salem Democrat has been weakened after his wife pleaded guilty in a federal tax case.
The oldest member of the delegation, Representative John Olver of Amherst, has already said he's sticking around, as has his neighbor, Representative Richard Neal of Springfield.
Below is Frank's statement.
I will be running for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2012.
While I would have preferred to put off a discussion about the next election until a later date, I have been asked on a number of occasions about my plans. In addition, I have become convinced that making my decision to run for re-election known is important for maximizing the impact I can have on the range of issues to which I am committed. These issues require a time commitment longer than the next two years.
There are two issues in particular that are of central importance. The first is to defend the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which will substantially diminish the likelihood of the risky and irresponsible behavior which led to the current economic crisis. The law is already under attack by those who oppose meaningful regulation and who would undermine it, either by pressuring regulators to weaken the law or by underfunding agencies such as the SEC and CFTC which are charged with administering it. The House Republican leadership has been very explicit about this, specifically targeting stronger regulation of derivatives, the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and restrictions on excessively risky behavior by federally-insured banks. If these opponents of reform are successful, it will put American workers and families at risk of suffering the effects of another economic meltdown. I intend to do everything in my power to fight their efforts.
My second national priority is to reduce significantly America’s swollen, unnecessary, worldwide military footprint – this is the only way to reconcile the need for us to spend wisely, to promote our economy and to accomplish substantial deficit reduction. Failure to address excessive military spending will either add to the deficit or force cuts in education, police, fire, transportation, scientific research, food safety, and infrastructure investment. The disparity between the cost of America’s legitimate security needs and the money we spend to maintain a worldwide military presence is the single greatest obstacle to responsible deficit reduction. While in the past it has appeared to be politically impossible to make reasonable cuts to excessive military spending, there are recent encouraging signs, including the bipartisan work I have done with Congressman Ron Paul. I will continue to make this a major part of my work in order to improve our economy and preserve our quality of life.
While these two issues are central to our ability to return to a full-employment economy while protecting our quality of life, there are other national and regional issues on which I will be working as well -- protecting the fishing industry in Massachusetts from arbitrary, unjust and unfair actions; fighting for full legal equality for all citizens; providing for the housing needs of low-income people, not by pushing them unwisely and unsustainably into homeownership, but rather by building affordable rental housing; and helping local communities provide a level of service adequate to the needs of their residents.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.