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Rep. Barney Frank Won't Be Running For Re-Election

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
(This post was retopped at 2:20 p.m. ET.)

Barney Frank, one of the most passionate liberals in Washington and the first member of Congress to openly acknowledge being gay, announced today that he will not seek a 17th term.

The 71-year-old lawmaker, who in recent years was best known for legislation aimed at tightening regulations on Wall Street and toughening consumer protections, said redistricting in Massachusetts would have meant he would need to spend too much time introducing himself to new constituents before next November's election and not enough on the issues he cares about.

We began this post at 10 a.m. ET. Read through to see how the story developed and our earlier updates:

10 a.m. ET: WBUR in Boston reports it has confirmed that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will not seek re-election in 2012.

CNN says that "Frank, a 16-term Democrat, will announce Monday he does not intend to seek re-election in 2012, according to a statement from [his] office."

Back in February, Frank announced he would run again in 2012, saying he wanted to "defend the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act" that he helped enact and wanted to work to "reduce significantly America's swollen, unnecessary, worldwide military footprint." It isn't known yet why he's apparently reversed course.

Watch It's All Politics for more on this.

Update at 11:52 p.m. ET. Frank Will Announce Decision Today:

The New York Times reportsthat Frank will announce his decision at a 1 p.m. ET. press conference in Newton, Mass.

The Times adds that one of the fiercest liberals in the House is retiring after facing one his toughest reelection campaigns in 2010. The 2012 election has gotten even tougher for him after redistricting:

His Fourth District falls mostly in southern Massachusetts but also includes the famously liberal Boston suburbs of Newton and Brookline. Under a new redistricting plan that Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat, signed into law last week, Mr. Frank's district would have lost heavily Democratic city of New Bedford and gained some more conservative towns.

Update at 12:02 p.m. ET. A Bit Of Biography:

The Boston Globe has a bit of Frank's biography:

Former party head Philip W. Johnston told the Globe: "He was brilliant, funny, acerbic, strategic, and unashamedly liberal. And they're in short supply these days."

Frank, 71, was raised in New Jersey but schooled at Harvard University and Harvard Law School, endowing him with a street-fighter's mouth and an academic's wit.

He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972 and the US House eight years later. In 1987, he became the first member of the chamber to voluntarily acknowledge he was gay. Two years later, he was involved in a scandal in which a live-in boyfriend operated a gay prostitute service from his home. The House ended up reprimanding Frank for the incident.

More recently, he has been one of President Obama's most important allies but also a target of Republicans. They accuse him of helping create the country's housing collapse by pushing the government and banks into approving loans to unqualified buyers.

In 2008, Frank was one of the writers of the Wall Street bailout, known as TARP. In 2010, as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he co-wrote and assured passage of "Dodd-Frank," which enacted major Wall Street regulatory reforms.

Update at 1 p.m. ET. It's Official; Frank Says Redistricting Is The Reason:

The congressman is holding a news conference right now, and WBUR is webcasting here. As it reported earlier, "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 71-year-old lawmaker says that running for re-election in a district that is "half new" would have required that he spend a lot of time introducing himself to new constituents. Instead, he says, he wants to concentrate for the next year on defending the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and making the case that deficit reduction requires raising taxes on the wealthy and trimming defense spending as well as other sacrifices.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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