Challenger Bielat Holds His Own Against U.S. Rep. Frank

Candidates for Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Rep. Barney Frank, left, and Republican challenger Sean Bielat, center, debate on NECN on Monday. (AP)

NEWTON, Mass. — Rep. Barney Frank faced his Republican challenger Monday night in their only televised debate. It was the first chance for the challenger, Marine reservist Sean Bielat, to show he could survive going on television against the congressman famous for his way with words.

Democrat Frank came armed with his usual wit. For instance, he dismissed New York Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino as a horse’s behind for saying that “children are being brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.”

“That guy running in New York, I guess his name is Paladino. Frankly, when I heard it at first, I thought it was Palomino, and only part of whom was talking,” Frank said.

Bielat is giving Frank the hardest race he’s faced since 1982. The 35-year-old first-time candidate gave up his full-time job as an executive at iRobot to run this race. He says his campaign has been boosted by hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in in small donations from across the country.

Monday night’s debate, moderated by NECN’s Jim Braude, was Bielat’s only chance to show a TV audience that he could stand up to Frank’s debating skills.

The recent Wharton MBA found out that going up against the wit of Frank is hard. This became evident when, at one point, Bielat said he would have opposed bailing out General Motors and Chrysler.

“I would have let them go,” Bielat said.

“How about that, Barney Frank?” Braude asked.

“There are a lot of people who agree with Sean Bielat. A lot of people agree with everybody. A lot of people think Elvis is still alive, too,” Frank replied.

But, with charm, Bielat did manage to throw Frank off balance when the congressman was pointing out that Bielat advocates permanent tax cuts for Americans who make more than $250,000 a year.

“One year might make sense, but that’s not what the Republicans are advocating,” Frank said. “It’s not what Mr. Bielat is advocating. He’s advocating…”

“How do you know what I’m advocating?” Bielat asked.

“Because I’ve read what you said,” Frank replied definitively, before showing some impatience with Bielat.

“Do I…what are the ground rules?” Frank asked Braude. “I know when I say something he doesn’t like, that he interrupts me. That’s been the pattern. The fact is, that I’ve read what Mr. Bielat said, and he is for making them permanent, as I have read it.”

Bielat managed to unnerve Frank once again when the two were debating how to put Social Security on sound financial footing.

“What Barney Frank is saying is: ‘Let’s not change anything, because I might lose votes. It’s not my problem now. We’ll kick the can down the road, and hopefully, it works out for the best in 20 or 30 years, and I’m not going to deal with it.’ That’s the wrong approach,” Bielat said.

“That’s the kind of distortion Mr. Bielat uses,” Frank said, interrupting. “I just said I agree with increasing the tax base. I just said it, and he makes believe I didn’t. I said that ‘I think you can increase the degree to which…’”

Now it was Bielat’s turn to interrupt.

“That’s not sufficient, and we both know it,” Bielat said.

“Mr. Bielat,” Frank remonstrated. “Please Sean, don’t do that. It’s a constant issue with him.”

Bielat, the challenger, managed to put the Frank, the congressman, on the defensive, and in that sense Monday night’s debate was a reflection of the race.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on wbur.org.
  • ETEE

    Go, Barney,Go…………. Please………Just GO!!! Leave. Resign. Whatever!!!

  • Chris Lynch

    Beilat says Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is working; Frank wants it repealed. My question for Beilat is: Working for whom?

    Without a specific policy position on Social Security, defense spending, or MA Question 2, its hard to know what a vote for Bielat represents. Sean Bielat wants your vote and if he gets enough … well, that’s when he’ll study the issues.

    Beilat likes to lecture on what it takes to grow jobs. Most recently he worked for defense contractor iRobot in Bedford MA.

    Bielat has not worked in gov at any level. Why not run for US President instead of starting at city council or state rep? Arrogance.

    On the recession, Beilat offers tax relief to people with jobs; Frank offers infrastructure investment, projects today for common good tomorrow, projects that will never occur in the private sector.

  • Roberta C.

    Chris, There’s nothing wrong with asking for a study from the military before scrapping DADT. It’s a very reasonable request.

    Bielat’s position on Social Security is clear. Do some research and I’m sure you’ll find them. As for your other concerns, somehow I think his positions on the other issues you mention will come out in future debates. Or you could always call him on one of his radio appearances and ask him yourself, if they truly concern you.

    As for him running for this office without government experience, I suppose you called Obama arrogant when he chose to run, right? Somehow, I think not.

    Lastly Chris, we’ve seen how Barney “invests” government ( ie Our! ) money. How’s Fannie and Freddie working out for you?

  • Patrick O’Shaughnessy

    Barney Frank needs to go. His hubris and sense of “owning” that Congressional seat have brought the United States to fiscal ruin. Frank’s years of promoting the profligate spending and lending at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was a prime cause of the current banking meltdown. Along with his counterpart over in the Senate, Chris Dodd, Mr. Frank bullied lenders under the foolish policies of the Community Reinvestment Act. Borrowers who were not credit worthy got mortgages that should have never been issued and the result has been disaterous for taxpayers left with the bill. Mr. Frank should have received a pink slip long ago, when it was shown that a prostitution ring was being run from his own house. He is corrupt as one can ever be.

  • Chris Lynch

    The DADT study the President asked the military to do was not whether to repeal DADT but what policy changes the military would institute to have gay men and women serving OPENLY in the military. Beilat is either uninformed or arguing the point dishonestly.

    On social security, Beilat said he’d set the retirement age at 70 or 68 or 42. Seems like another non-answer to me.

    Asked about Question 2 on the MA ballot. He said, I’d have to study it first. Really? He’s running for Congress full-time and he doesn’t have a policy position or even a voting position on question 2?

    Obama served in IL as a state senator, then in the US Senate before running for Pres. Frank served as aid to Mayor White. Bielat zip.

    Infrastructure projects are things like highways, bridges, rail, airports. If you’ve ever driven a car or taken a plane, you’ve used facilities built and maintained by government. Ever visit a national park; that too. Washington Mall? Yep.

    I’m not trying to convince you of anything. In return, I’d ask you to refrain from trying to convince me Beilat deserves a second look.

    I would be very interested to see if Sean benefited from government guaranteed loans to help finance his Harvard and/or Wharton education.

  • Lee

    Sean Bielat really cleaned Barney’s clock in this debate. I am looking forward to casting my vote for Sean Bielat in November!

  • mary

    Chris Lynch calling Beilat arrogant while sitting next to Barney Frank…lol. That is just too funny.
    No one can even come close to Frank’s arrogant, snotty, condescending attitude towards anyone who does not believe exactly what he says. Frank always has to be demeaning towards people as his “Elvis” comment proves.
    With all the issues in America, the DADT topic is the main topic here. That’s arrogance in itself…yea the world revolves around the gays Barney.

  • Jon R

    Hi Chris,

    Bielat does have a position on SS, in fact it is on the front page of his website. Sean also is a military veteran and is currently in the reserves, I feel as though this would give him a good amount of knowledge about how the military works and obviously you disagree with him, but you of course cannot agree w/ anyone 100% of the time.

    Infrastructure projects are a good thing, but the problem is the stimulus money that is being spent is being spent wastefully and is having little to no effect on our current economic crisis. I would think that someone who has been successful in the private sector, and someone who has graduate degrees (one of which in business) from 2 of the top schools in the world (Harvard and Penn) would be able to help our country get out of this mess.

    I am not from the MA-4 district so unfortunately I do not have a vote in this race, but I have been following it closely b/c I think that Barney Frank has caused a lot of trouble for our country, even if I do agree w/ Barney’s stance on legalizing online gambling.

    We can all pick and choose facts that help make our statements look correct, I think all that the other commenters were doing was making sure both sides were heard w/ equal merit

  • TomK

    Thank God there are a few liberals left like Barney Frank. He is one of the few with the courage to call the extreme right on their class warfare. Anyone who doesn’t know that “reform” of SS and medicare means “steal from the middle class” has not been paying attention. It’s amazing that anyone can be fooled into thinking he was responsible for the bush crash. Frank was a minority congressman. The minority in the house has no power. Meanwhile, radicals like Gingrich and DeLay were tearing down all the regulations put in place to prevent another great depression. They are the culprits. We got the bush crash after decades of tax cuts and deregulation, and the right is now proposing more of the same to fix things. How dumb can you get?

  • Hardy Kornfeld

    A poll of the military before segregation revealed a large majority of servicemen (they were mostly men back then) were against it. If we don’t repeal DADT should we also repeal desegregation?

  • Atkins

    “One year might make sense, but that’s not what the Republicans are advocating,” Frank said. “It’s not what Mr. Bielat is advocating. He’s advocating…”

    “How do you know what I’m advocating?” Bielat asked.

    “Because I’ve read what you said,” Frank replied

    Does Bielat even know what he has said in the past? What a right-wing dolt. Barney should have dope-slapped him right then and there.

  • Pat


    Liberals need to find a better a better arguement than “blame Bush.” Seriously. I never liked most of Bush’s domestic policies, so please don’t act like every non-liberal loved Bush.

    By your logic, Barney valiantly tried to rein in the subprime crisis that led to the current economic downtown, and was blocked by Republicans. Can you guess who said we had nothing to worry about in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008 in the video below? Was that Bush/Gringich/DeLay talking through Frank? Or just Frank looking out for his special interests? You decide -

    Barney Frank Flip-Flop on Youtube

    Even if Barney Frank “could not do anything” as stated, he still could have spoken out against subprime lending rather than covering it up.

  • Brian Foley

    @TomK – Entitlement programs are breaking this country. We are facing a debt induced national security crisis. Let’s leave the boneheads from the past to their memoirs. We need answers and fixes now. After 30 years in office B Frank has proven he has no answers. He belongs with the memoir crowd, rewriting the history on their responsibility for the debt crisis. Let Sean in, and send Frank home.

    I’m voting for Sean Bielat.

  • http://www.richerearth.com Eric M

    Barney is far from perfect but I’m still happy to have him back for another term (and I am in his district). Anyone who sends his opponents into such spasms of angst is worth having around for that alone.

    More seriously, Frank has called for cuts in defense spending, acknowledging that the deficit can’t be addressed (as Beilat so much wants) without serious cuts in the military budget. We spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We need seriously streamling in the military and put that savings to deficit reduction.

    People fail to recall that, since WWII, government spending has typically increased more under R leadership than D. Beilat’s other policies are the typical R combination of lower taxes for the wealthy (he’s even a fan of the Steve Forbes flat tax), fewer regulations to make sure business plays fair, higher fences at the border. To his credit, Beilat does seem to have an enlightened approach to energy.

    The Democrats have their issues (no spines, etc.) but they’d be better off with more like Frank.

  • David F

    I think Beilat did very well. It appears that the veteran congressman is as petulant as ever when he is forced to look in the mirror at his own record. The rapid double-speak that Rep. Frank employs is tiresome. Rep. Frank helps only those who vote for him. A true example of today’s career Dem. politician, blame everything on prejudice, discrimination and execute class envy strategy. I trust Rep. Frank will have a comfortable retirement.

  • Frank

    Barney Frank is a leader.. Bielat is another stooge of the No tax zealots that want the government to stop bad banking, prevent oil spills and protect us from bad people through the military, but never want to pay for it from thier pockets. Ttpical short sighted, greed mongers who could care less about our childrens future, childrens envirnment, quality of education and the respect our military deserves. THink about the Bush years…think about the rubber stamp the republicans idiots gave Bush from Torture to invading Iraq “with the army you have” to Katrina lost victims, to the long list of lies and corporate special interests. The republican party needs to reform aware from religion and greed. The rest of us need to stay informed and stop behaving like we are not part of a society that works together. Really…

  • mc

    that picture says it all…barney is phoning it in.

  • Payne N. Diaz

    Glad I don’t live in Mass! Barney Frank has got to be the most repulsive, incompetent person in Congress. He personally presided over the US real estate implosion by forcing banks to make lousy loans and then dumping them into Fannie and Freddie. Fannie stock dropped from about $70 a share to 30 cents on his watch. Shame on you Bawney.

  • Danny

    Question 2 is a *state* issue.

    Frank and Bielat are running for the *US* Congress, not the Massachusetts legislature.

    There are lots of *federal* issues for them to deal with.

    Let’s not ask them about questions that are not relevant to the office they are seeking.

  • Chris Lynch

    Question 2 is a *state* issue in a state Beilat lives in, is running for Congress in and will vote in.

    “I’d have to study it” as an answer for a single question is ok if he comes prepared the next time. “I’d have to study it” as an answer to three questions, which he did, is unprepared or being a slippery politican.

  • Frank

    we are all glad that you dont live in MA and we are glad we do…

  • Donna

    When asked about Question #2 on the ballot, Beilot says I have to research it. How do you run for Congress wihout knowing the issues that the people are voting on in the Commonwealth. Did the author really see this debate? I did and Beilot’s scary!

  • Mandy

    I would like anyone who thinks that Barney Frank is a good representative, to explain to everyone why destroying the economy by hyper-inflating a housing bubble is something to be proud of.


    Go watch the youtube video linked above. Afterwards, you can then continue to defend Barney Frank, or be intellectually honest and call him out for what he is. Shameful.

  • JonInVa

    Anyone who votes or has voted for Barney Frank must be a complete moron. There is nothing appealing about the man, personally or professionally in how he’s handled what were his responsibilities. He’s just a showman who deflects everything with this supposed wit. If people in MA want real change that benefits everyone, go with fresh blood and a person of the people – not an established idealogue and partisan hack.

  • John

    I’m still not sure how Barney Frank has managed to stay in Congress for so many years. The guy is clueless and completely out of touch with the American people. He is exactly what is wrong with the current Congress.

    Vote against Barney Frank on Nov 2.

  • Response to previous post (October 12, 2010, at 9:31 AM)

    Arrogance? When have professional politicians (such as Barney Frank) -ever- been good at anything, except perhaps manipulating taxpayer’s money and buying influence?

    Additionally, your promotion of projects that “will never occur in the private sector” are paid for by the success of a private sector. So your point is…?

    Suggest a refresher course in Economics 101 and “The Constitution Made Easy” by Michael Holler.

  • NeoKong

    Hey Chris Lynch.
    What are you saying….?
    Are you saying that Sean Bielat doesn’t have the experience to run the financial sector into the ground like Barney Frank did….?
    Well I hope you are right.
    Many of the millions of people who are losing their homes, pensions and bank accounts can thank Barney Frank and all his “govt.experience”.
    We could pick someone out of the phonebook who could a better job.
    Frank is an embarrassing disgrace.
    I want Bielat to interrupt Franks career.

  • Gene

    Worlds worst selling tee shirt… “I voted for Barney Frank”

  • Jayson McLiam

    I hope Bielat shows this clown the door in 3 weeks. Barney Frank is a cancer in Washington and needs to be removed. He doesn’t give a rats rear about the people of Massachusetts…all he cares about is his political career. he is such a dolt. Why doesn’t anyone ask him about his ties to Freddie and Fannie? This man is as corrupt as the day is long.

  • Dennis D

    Barney Frank has chaired the House Banking Committee for the last 4 years.I can find no statement of warning from him of the coming financial crisis. Only statements in support of the status quo regarding Fanny and Freddie. How can any informed person elect Barney Frank ?

  • Dennis D

    I see many people posting what ” Barney Frank ” offers.He has a long track record. What he offers is meaningless. Democrats have controlled House and Senate for nearly 4 yrs. Worst 4 Years in America since the Great Depression. Thats what he has to offer.

  • Tone Loc

    Barney Frank is SHOULDER deep in this Fannie and Freddi mess.. Can anyone ask him what he did in the Finanace Bill to take of them ???? ZERO !!!! Hopefully Mass. will wkae the hell up this time around !!!! Barney has to go !!!

  • Catherine Edwards

    I’m not from Massachusetts, but my guess is that the people of Massachusetts would prefer not to have a corrupt CLOWN representing them anymore. He was instrumental in destroying the housing market. Well, it’s time to clean the house – it’s time for him to go.

  • Michael W

    Just another reason to despise the Red Sox and Celtics – look who the fans of these teams vote for! LOL! Barney Frank … jesus – catch a clue!

  • Larry

    “Bielat has not worked in gov at any level. Why not run for US President instead of starting at city council or state rep? Arrogance.”

    What about Obama? Before his two years as a senator, has he done anything? The arrogance…

  • Cat Coughlin

    Who are these people in MA who keep voting for this idiot? It makes me wonder if the voting system is truly corrupt there. Are there that many old ladies who don’t know what the hell is going on and just think Barney is cute?

  • http://www.mindcancer.com/ Fritz Katz

    Dennis D wrote: Democrats have controlled House and Senate for nearly 4 yrs. Worst 4 Years in America since the Great Depression. Thats what he has to offer.

    That’s just wrong. Democrats have controlled House and Senate the past 6 yrs.

  • http://msn Maureen K.

    Came back to MA to see just how bad things are. I cried seeing how the city of my birth has fallen into disrepaire. Taxes so high, jobs lost, that middle class can no longer keep up their property. Area I and my children grew up are now looking like slums. People, it is truly time to clean house. Heaven protect our grandchildren from what WE have done to THEIR country. They did not ask to be left this mess. When did WE stop believing in OURSELVES and leave it up to EVERYONE else. It is time we vote for the best PERSON, not one who is Black, Gay, Democrate or Republication. These types of issues are just mudding up the mess. Vote for YOUR COUNTRY and NOTHING else. A DAMN YANKEE in AL who still has children/grandchildren where she calls home.

  • Steve L

    Barney Frank said two months before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went bankrupt that they were fine and we had nothing to worry about. Fast forward to 2010, social security is fine and we have nothing to worry about! Yeah right. Please go fly to another country on your buddies jet after you get voted out. Nevermind, your friend no longer has any need for you after you are voted out.

Most Popular