As the press in Massachusetts and throughout the nation was still reeling yesterday following the surprise announcement from Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) that he would not seek reelection next year, the maneuvering began over succession in the controversial lawmaker’s 4th District.
No sooner had 32-year Congressman Frank made it official than two Democratic state senators sent out strong signals they were interested in running for the seat. Senators Cynthia Creem of Newton and Marc Pacheco of Taunton, both considered arch-leftists in the mold of Frank (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 4.27%), are already considered the front-runners before any formal announcement. In addition, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who is African-American, and multimillionaire businessman Alan Khazei, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in the 2010 special election for U.S. Senator won by Republican Scott Brown, are reportedly eyeing the House race.
Among Republicans, the early talk centered on conservative Sean Bielat, the U.S. Marine reserve officer who drew 41% of the vote as the Republican nominee against Frank last year. However, there was growing uncertainty about whether Bielat would wind up running. Elizabeth Childs, who served as state mental health commissioner under Gov. Mitt Romney (2002-’06), had already been running hard for the seat when Frank dropped his bombshell today. Lisa Barstow, press secretary for Bielat in his ’10 campaign, has already signed on to do the same chores for Childs in this election cycle.
“I don’t know whether Sean will run again or not,” Barstow told HUMAN EVENTS. “If he does, I know that he and Elizabeth will run a clean nomination race with no attacks on one another.” Barstow went on to explain that Childs is more moderate than Bielat, saying she is “moderate on social issues, but very conservative on fiscal issues.”
Talk of a Republican winning in the 4th has been circulating for decades, but it never seems to happen. But Republican opportunities arise when the district is open. When Roman Catholic priest Jesuit Father Robert Drinan ran as a strong anti-Vietnam War candidate and defeated 28-year Rep. Phil Philbin in the Democratic primary in 1970, more moderate Democrats crossed over to Republican nominee and state legislator John McGlennan. Drinan barely won in the fall. When Pope John Paul II ordered all priests to give up secular office and Drinan stepped down in 1980, then-State Rep. Frank moved into the 4th District from Boston and won a crowded primary. In November, a hard-hitting campaign by dentist and Republican nominee Dick Jones brought him within 1,500 votes of an upset of Democrat Frank.
Now, following redistricting that has removed Frank’s reliable bastion of New Bedford and made the 4th a district that Republican Brown carried by 10 percentage points in the 2010 Senate race, the House seat is once again open, and speculation about a Republican upset has again begun.