BOSTON — Sixteen-term Democratic Rep. Barney Frank announced his retirement Monday effective at the end of next year, closing out a congressional career of more than three decades and capped by passage of legislation imposing new regulations on Wall Street.
At a news conference from Newton City Hall Monday, the 71-year-old said a number of factors contributed to his decision not to seek another term, including recently completed redistricting.
“If I were to run again, I would be engaged full-fledged in a campaign, which is entirely appropriate. But the fact that it is so new makes it harder, in terms of learning about new areas, introducing myself to new people,” Frank said.
“There are 326,000 new people, many of whom I’ve never represented, some of whom I haven’t represented for 20 years, which is an eternity in our politics today.”
Massachusetts lawmakers just redrew Frank’s current 4th Congressional District, making it larger and eliminating New Bedford, where he held a lot of support. The district also picked up parts of the more conservative Blackstone Valley.
Frank has long found his political base in the liberal strongholds of Brookline and Newton. Constituents visiting the Newton Public Library Monday were sorry to hear of his retirement.
“I’m very troubled by [his retirement] because he’s been a wonderful representative and I know we’ll all miss him,” said Joanne Grossman. “In fact we don’t call him Barney Frank, we all call him Barney.”
Rona Hamada was also sorry to hear of his retirement, but she thinks it’s the right move.
“First of all, with the redistricting, I think it will change things,” Hamada said. “But I also think that politically, there’ll be a lot of dirt flying because of the redistricting, and I don’t think he needs to be in it.”
Frank’s decision will likely touch off a scramble among challengers looking to claim a rare open congressional seat.
Frank was first elected to the House in 1980. He was one of the first lawmakers to announce that he is a homosexual.
He is the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, a panel he chaired when Democrats held a majority for four years beginning in early 2007.
As chairman, he helped shepherd to passage legislation that provided the most extensive overhaul of the nation’s financial system in decades. The measure, which is known as the Dodd-Frank Act, was a response to the near collapse of the banking industry in 2008 and disclosures about Wall Street practices that stirred mass anger.
The Harvard College and Harvard University Law School graduate was an assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White in the late 1960s. He served in the Massachusetts House from 1973 to 1980, representing the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, before joining Congress.
With reporting by The Associated Press, State House News Service and the WBUR Newsroom