NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Barney Frank to retire from Congress

Bar­ney Frank, the first open­ly gay mem­ber of Con­gress, announced today that he will not run for reelec­tion in 2012, end­ing a career in the U.S. House that began in 1981.

“I will not be a can­di­date for reelec­tion to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2012,” Frank said in a news release announc­ing his deci­sion to retire.

“I began to think about retire­ment last year, as we were com­plet­ing pas­sage of the finan­cial reform bill. I have enjoyed — indeed, been enor­mous­ly hon­ored — by the chance to rep­re­sent oth­ers in Con­gress and the State Leg­is­la­ture, but there are oth­er things I hope to do before my career ends.”

“Specif­i­cal­ly, I have for sev­er­al years been think­ing about writ­ing, and while there are peo­ple who are able to com­bine seri­ous writ­ing with full-time jobs, my sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty to dis­trac­tion when faced with a blank screen makes that impos­si­ble.”

Frank also said he felt it made sense to retire now giv­en that his con­gres­sion­al dis­trict in Mass­a­chu­setts has been redrawn. At a news con­fer­ence in New­ton, he made it plain­ly clear he was tired of cam­paign­ing and tired of the grow­ing acri­mo­ny and dis­cord that has come to char­ac­ter­ize Con­gress.

“If I were to run again, I would be engaged full-fledged in a cam­paign, which is entire­ly appro­pri­ate,” Frank told reporters. “Nobody ought to expect to get elect­ed with­out a con­test. But the fact that it is so new makes it hard­er in terms of learn­ing about new areas, intro­duc­ing myself to new peo­ple. And I have oth­er oblig­a­tions; one is to con­tin­ue to serve the peo­ple I cur­rent­ly serve.”

Reac­tion to Frank’s announce­ment came quick­ly.

“This coun­try has nev­er had a Con­gress­man like Bar­ney Frank, and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives will not be the same with­out him,” said Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in a state­ment. “For over thir­ty years, Bar­ney has been 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. 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. ”

“Barney’s pas­sion and his quick wit will be missed in the halls of Con­gress, and Michelle and I join the peo­ple of the Bay State in thank­ing him for his years of ser­vice.”

“A gen­er­a­tion of Bay State res­i­dents have known Bar­ney Frank for his wis­dom, wit and pas­sion for ser­vice,” added Mass­a­chu­setts Gov­er­nor Deval Patrick.

“Bar­ney’s lead­er­ship, on issues rang­ing from civ­il lib­er­ties to finan­cial sys­tem restraint, will be sore­ly missed. He has earned the good wish­es of the peo­ple of the Com­mon­wealth.”

“No one’s ever doubt­ed for a minute what Bar­ney Frank thinks or where he stands, and if you weren’t sure, trust me, he’d tell you,” agreed Sen­a­tor John Ker­ry.

“That’s the spe­cial qual­i­ty that has made Bar­ney not just beloved and quotable, but unbe­liev­ably effec­tive as an advo­cate and a leg­is­la­tor.”

“He’s brave, he’s bold, and he’s ridicu­lous­ly smart. Peo­ple have mar­veled for years about what a quick and wit­ty debater Bar­ney can be, but many over­looked his secret: he has a core. He’s the same advo­cate I met in the 1970s stump­ing for Father Dri­nan, only he’s tak­en that fight and that same sense of fun­da­men­tal fair­ness to bat­tles over equal­i­ty, afford­able hous­ing, and fish­ing in New Bed­ford. ”

“Bar­ney is who he is, no mat­ter the issue. His voice will be deeply missed in the Con­gress and in our del­e­ga­tion, but true to his word he’ll be tak­ing his per­spec­tive to a new are­na where his impact will con­tin­ue to be felt just as deeply.”

“[I] will miss Bar­ney Frank’s voice in Con­gress. He’s a fierce cham­pi­on of the lit­tle guy in a town where the big guys hire armies of lob­by­ists,” U.S. Sen­ate hope­ful Eliz­a­beth War­ren said on Twit­ter.

Speak­ing of  armies of D.C. lob­by­ists, Frank made it explic­it­ly clear today he has no inten­tion of join­ing their ranks after he retires. He plans to write and teach, and com­ment reg­u­lar­ly on pub­lic affairs, but he has no inten­tion of walk­ing through the Belt­way revolv­ing door once his term ends.

POSTSCRIPT: The Boston Globe, which once called for Frank’s res­ig­na­tion from Con­gress, has a nice edi­to­r­i­al  in its Wednes­day, Novem­ber 29th edi­tion prais­ing him for his years of ser­vice to Mass­a­chu­setts.

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