Chalk up another victim to Republican redistricting efforts. Democratic Congressman Barney Frank has announced that he will not be running for reelection in 2012, citing a newer, more conservative district as a deciding factor in his retirement.
Frank, who was Congress’s first openly gay official, has served in the House for over 30 years, where he represented a Massachusetts district of solidly liberal Boston communities. But new congressional lines which have sliced off some of his safer areas and replaced them with more conservative leaning neighborhoods have made reelection a much bigger battle, and one Frank is unwilling to put himself through for another cycle.
Frank had been highly influential in writing financial reform programs during the beginning of the Obama administration, where he chaired the Financial Services Committee. He’s also been a strong advocate against the Defense of Marriage Act and for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the military policy that forces gay soldiers to hide their sexual orientation.
Allies have praised Frank’s work in Congress, calling his retirement a great loss. “‘He was brilliant, funny, acerbic, strategic, and unashamedly liberal. And they’re in short supply these days,’ Philip W. Johnston, a former chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said of Frank.”
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, agreed. “Barney Frank has exemplified true leadership over his more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. As the first openly gay Member of Congress, Barney defied stereotypes and kicked doors open for LGBT Americans. Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would never have happened without his leadership. But it goes beyond that. His service as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee during a time of great economic upheaval made a gay man one of the most powerful people in the country and he used that power for great good. America, Massachusetts and LGBT people are better off for Barney Frank’s service.”
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls Frank a “pioneer” who will be sorely missed in the legislature. “This is a man of incredible intellect. A powerhouse who has championed the rights of consumers in the financial services community. I really have a heavy heart today. I’m going to miss him terribly.”
And political pundit Sally Kohn says this will not be the end of retirement announcements as government becomes even more dysfunctional. “More sensible leaders of both political stripes can be expected to leave politics as Washington is increasingly held hostage by intransigent conservative extremists. Barney Frank’s retirement isn’t just unfortunate news for Democrats, it’s unfortunate news for a nation founded on the ideals of democratic deliberation.”
Meanwhile, the conservative website The Daily Caller remains as classy as ever, saying “Don’t wet the doahw hit ya on the way out, kweep!” and comparing him to Elmer Fudd.