In Reality, Frank's Seat Is Tough For The GOP
House Financial Services Committee Chairmen Rep. Barney Frank presides over a hearing titled "Systematic Regulation, Prudential Matters, Resolution Authority, and Securitization" , Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
It's a hot new meme among conservative media outlets: With Rep. Barney Frank's retirement, the GOP may just have a shot at snagging a seat in liberal Massachusetts!
But Republicans shouldn't start salivating at the prospect of winning Frank's seat just yet. While the GOP does have strong candidates waiting in the wings -- including Frank's 2010 challenger -- Democrats have an equally impressive bench. Any Republican still faces long odds in this solidly blue seat.
Marine reserve officer Sean Bielat surged onto the national radar late last cycle, capturing the conservative imagination with his threat to Frank's career. Frank himself was scared enough that he put $200,000 of his own money into this war chest.
While Bielat raised an impressive $2.4 million, much of that was motivated more by a desire to unseat Frank, whose eponymous Wall Street reform bill was and is a rallying point for the Tea Party and the GOP. Capturing the same attention against a little-known Democratic challenger would be much more difficult next year.
When the dust settled last November, Bielat did hold Frank to his lowest reelection total ever -- just 53 percent. But he still lost by 10 points amid the sweeping Republican wave. Massachusetts is one place where President Obama is unlikely to be a drag on the Democratic ticket, even if the state's former governor, Mitt Romney, is the GOP nominee.
Bielat sent out a press release Wednesday announcing he's considering another bid, but that's old news. When Frank had said earlier this year he would run, Bielat sent out another release saying he was still mulling things over, and on November 8 he has posted a note on his web site that he was continuing to give "a lot of thought" to a 2012 campaign.
And Bielat wouldn't have a clean shot at the seat. Brookline School Committee member Elizabeth Childs, a psychiatrist who was appointed by Romney to serve as Commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health, has been running since July. Whether Bielat runs or not, Childs says she's staying in; she's already hired Bielat's former communications director.
Frank's seat also got marginally better for Republicans, but it's by no means a GOP seat. The new district gave President Obama 61 percent of the vote in 2008, while Frank's old seat was a 63-percent Obama district. And while Republican Sen. Scott Brown won the district by a 10-point margin in his January 2010 special election victory over Democrat Martha Coakley, the area is Brown's home turf. He's unlikely to repeat that same margin against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, a much stronger candidate than Coakley. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick only narrowly edged out Republican Charlie Baker, but third party candidate Tim Cahill also took 7 percent.
Frank cited the new district lines as one reason he decided to leave now. The new district sheds New Bedford and picks up Wrentham and Milford, but those additions alone shouldn't be a reason for Democrats to fret. In reality, Frank's decision was more about not wanting to have to introduce himself to new voters for only one term - he admitted he had intended to stay around until 2014 - and he is 71.
Democrats have several strong names already being floated, all ready for a chance at a rare-open seat in the Bay State. One of the younger members of the commonwealth's most famous political dynasty, Middlesex County prosecutor Joseph P. Kennedy III, is mulling a bid. City Year co-founder Alan Khaezi, who recently ended his Senate bid, is also contemplating a run, though he would have to move into the district to run. Brookline selectwoman Jesse Mermell, 2006 lieutenant governor candidate Deborah Goldberg and Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter have also been generating buzz as possible candidates.