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.