Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has some campaign advice for his hometown mayor considering a run against GOP Sen. Scott Brown: Don’t.
Frank told National Journal he thought the gnashing of Democratic teeth in Massachusetts over the party’s failure thus far to find a formidable challenger to Brown was premature, and he said Newton Mayor Setti Warren’s candidacy would be the same. Warren, an Iraq War veteran and former aide to Sen. John Kerry, is serving the second year of a four-year term, a job Frank said would hamstring him in a campaign.
“I think it’s a mistake for him to run, I’ve told him that,” Frank said.
“He’s in his second year as mayor in a four-year term.... People in the city of Newton are very proud of their four-year term. He’s very able, but I think he’s making a mistake to run,” said Frank. the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.
“I think he may be underestimating the difficulty of running a statewide campaign and trying to be the mayor. I think, again, to be in the second year of your first four-year term for an important executive job, it would be difficult to do that job well and run for the Senate well.”
Gov. Deval Patrick recently told National Journal that Warren, who has not declared a campaign, was running “for sure,” along with party activist Robert Massie and CityYear founder Alan Khazei. Reps. Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch have not foreclosed on bids, and finance executive Robert Pozen has said he would consider a campaign if the party asked him.
Brown’s poll numbers remain impressive, and he has told supporters he plans to raise $25 million for re-election. National and state Democrats have intensified attacks on him but have yet to field a prominent challenger.
Frank noted that the election does not occur for more than 18 months and dismissed concern about the party’s efforts as largely a press fabrication. Privately, though, some Massachusetts Democrats admit frustration and some measure of embarrassment with Brown’s virtual free ride.
Warren adviser Deborah Shah said the mayor’s decision would not depend on input from party wise men like Frank.
“The decision is going to be one that is entirely based on whether Setti believes that this is the right thing to do for Massachusetts right now, and he’s very concerned about Scott Brown and the votes that he’s taken,” Shah said.
Warren is considered a top-tier Democratic contender: young, African American, likely to access Kerry’s national fundraising network if he receives the nomination, able to put his own military service up against Brown’s (a key component of Brown’s appeal when he won the seat last year).
But the slenderness of Warren's résumé on the job has already prompted yowls about office-hunting back home, and would leave him susceptible to the allegations of opportunism that used to dog his old boss.
“That four-year term is a serious obstacle for him,” Frank said.
This article appears in the April 15, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.