Republican hopes of picking up seats in Massachusetts’ all-Democratic U.S. House delegation were dashed Tuesday as Rep. Barney Frank won re-election and the GOP failed to win the state’s lone open seat.
In one of the most closely watched races, voters in the 4th Congressional District returned longtime Democratic incumbent Frank to a 16th term in office, rejecting a challenge by GOP newcomer Sean Bielat.
Frank, a favorite target of conservatives, had found himself in one of the toughest re-election campaigns of his nearly three decades in office, in large part because of his position as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Bielat, a former U.S. Marine, benefited from contributions from groups and individuals outside of Massachusetts who wanted to see Frank ousted. Late in the campaign, Frank said he was dumping $200,000 of his own savings into his re-election campaign.
Bielat, a former program manager from Brookline, tried to portray Frank as “one of the architects of the financial collapse,” but his message failed to outweigh Frank’s years of political goodwill among voters in a district that stretches from Newton to New Bedford.
In a victory speech, Frank thanked voters for returning him to office, although he acknowledged he would be heading back to a very different House with Democrats in the minority.
“I go back determined to protect the financial reform bill we put through that they’re going to try to undermine,” Frank said of Republicans. “We will not allow it to go back.”
Despite the loss, Bielat called the campaign “a huge success.”
“We took on a 30-year incumbent in one of the most gerrymandered districts in the country, someone who outspent us by $1 million, and we came close,” Bielat told supporters. “For the first time in 30 years, people went to the polls here and they made a choice.”
Republicans had pinned their hopes on the 10th Congressional District seat left open by U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, who chose not to seek re-election.
The race pitted Republican state Rep. Jeffrey Perry against Norfolk District Attorney William Keating, a Democrat, who pulled out a victory.
Throughout the campaign, Perry was dogged by his actions as a police sergeant nearly two decades ago when an officer he supervised, Scott Flanagan, illegally strip searched two teenage girls. Flanagan later pleaded guilty to indecent assault.
The controversy took on a new life in the campaign when one of the women who was searched when she was 14 released a statement saying Perry “had to hear me screaming and crying” and “instead of helping me, Jeff Perry denied anything happened.”
Although Perry was never charged, Keating and the Massachusetts Democratic Party used the encounters to call Perry’s character into question.
In his victory speech, Keating struck a conciliatory note, saying he hoped to reach out to all voters in the district, which stretches from Quincy to Provincetown and includes Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
“Even if I didn’t earn your vote today I will fight each and every minute of each and every day working to earn your trust,” Keating said.
Other Democratic incumbents handily defeated GOP challengers.
In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic incumbent John Olver beat Republican William Gunn of Ware and independent candidate Michael Engel for his 10th full term in office. In the 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Rep Richard Neal, the Democratic incumbent, will be returning to Congress for a 12th term after beating Republican Thomas Wesley of Hopedale.
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. James McGovern defeated Republican Martin Lamb and independent candidate Patrick Barron.
In the 5th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas beat back a challenge from Republican Jon Golnik for her second full term. In the 6th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Tierney defeated GOP newcomer Bill Hudak.
In the 7th Congressional District, Republican candidate and Woburn chiropractor Gerry Dembrowski failed to oust incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, who has represented the district since 1976.
In the 9th Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Stephen Lynch brushed back a challenge from Republican Vernon Harrison, a computer technician from Braintree. Lynch was first elected in 2001, following the death of U.S. Rep. John Joseph Moakley.
Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano in the 8th Congressional District was unopposed.