NEWTON – Citing recent changes to the Fourth Congressional District, that included the addition of Medfield, Congressman Barney Frank announced Monday afternoon he will not seek re-election in 2012.
Frank, 71, made the announcement Monday in the War Memorial Auditorium at . Speaking to a sea of media, Frank said the redistricting results would require him to campaign as an incumbent in a district that "is almost half new."
"[The district] is so new it makes it harder in terms of learning about new areas," Frank said.
Just last week, . The Fourth District, where Frank has been congressman for 16 terms, added more towns from Worcester and Norfolk counties, including Medfield, Milford, Hopedale, Plainville, Wrentham, Franklin, Medway and parts of Bellingham.
Meanwhile, the Fourth District will lose a large part of Southern Bristol County and East Plymouth County, including New Bedford, Dartmouth, Westport, Acushnet, Wareham, Middleborough, Marion, Rochester, Mattapoisett, Halifax and part of Fall River, which will all now be a part of a newly-drawn Ninth District.
With roughly 325,000 new constituents, Frank said he would have to do a lot of campaigning and raise a substantial amount of money to reach out to the new parts of his district. Raising money, he noted, is not something he likes to do.
Medfield Board of Selectmen chair Osler "Pete" Peterson said he was looking forward to Frank representing Medfield in Congress again and was "hugely surprised" by the congressman's decision to retire.
"[Frank] has been such an institution for so long, that I had come to take his presence as a given," Peterson said. "There are few other voices in Congress that are at once as intelligent, as direct, as unscripted ... and therefore as real ... and as witty as Barney Frank's has been for years and years."
Peterson said he will miss Frank's "insightful straight talk."
"I have always been interested in learning his viewpoints on issues," Peterson said. "He and I share a belief that government both can and should function to make peoples' lives better and to the solve societal problems that are often too large for individuals to solve acting separately on their own. I have become a great admirer of Barney Frank and his record."
While Frank said he will miss his job as a congressman, the congressman said he will continue to work as an advocate for public policy. He said he will not work as a lobbyist, but plans to write, teach and lecture in his retirement.
Frank added he will keep his apartment in Newton and spend time between the Garden City and another spot in Maine.
Bringing in his well-known, biting wit, Frank noted in retirement, "I don't have to pretend to be nice to people I don't like."
The seasoned politician, who worked as the chairman of House Financial Services Committee and is now a top-ranking member, acknowledged that the last few years in Congress have been taxing as the government deals with financial reform and the recession.
Congress, he said, has "substantially deteriorated" since he was first elected to the House in 1980. In a statement issued by his office Monday, Frank noted the current political climate has "made it harder for anything to get done on a federal level."
Aside from the large crowd of media, Frank was also welcomed to City Hall by local elected officials, including several Newton aldermen and School Committee members as well as former State Auditor Joe DeNucci, Middlesex County Sherriff (and former State Rep.) Peter Koutoujian and Newton Mayor Setti Warren.
Warren, who introduced Frank, thanked the congressman's work in "fighting for the middle class" and "improving the quality of life for people in this country."
"For over 30 years, Congressman Frank has exemplified what it means to be a public servant," Warren said in a statement issued earlier Monday. "From his years on the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and throughout his tenure as representative from the Fourth Congressional District, Congressman Frank has demonstrated an unrivaled commitment to fighting for equal opportunity and improving the quality of life for all communities. He has been a true friend to the city of Newton. It has been a great honor to work with Congressman Frank, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
Democrats from all levels of government offered their praise and thanks for Frank Monday, including President Barack Obama.
Joining many others in publicy thanking Frank for 16 terms of service, Governor Patrick said the congressman "will be sorely missed."
"A generation of Bay State residents have known Barney Frank for his wisdom, wit and passion for service," said Patrick. "Barney's leadership, on issues ranging from civil liberties to financial system restraint, will be sorely missed. He has earned the good wishes of the people of the Commonwealth."