Barney Franks retiring from Congress
Outspoken U.S. Representative Barney Franks (D-MA) announced today he would not seek re-election in 2012. Franks, who was the first openly gay national political figure, had served as a Representative for his district since 1980. He volunteered his sexual preference in 1987, but had been re-elected with little difficulty until 2010, when he achieved a narrow victory for his seat. Franks has been seen as one of the most liberal members of Congress and was a tireless crusader for civil rights, medical care reform and environmental issues. Franks had taken a good deal of criticism in recent years because of his position as the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee from 2007-2011. It was on his watch that the financial meltdown stemming from the housing market occurred. Franks acknowledged in his retirement announcement that the recent redistricting of his 4th Congressional District would make his re-election problematic due to the inclusion of more conservative areas and the exclusion of some of his stronger, liberal support in other areas. According to Franks, the redistricting meant that 325,000 persons he had never before represented were now in his district. At his announcement Franks acknowledged he had already raised over $760,000 for his upcoming campaign, but suggested he might need four to five times that amount were he to be successful. Franks, a native of New Jersey, moved to Massachusetts as a student at Harvard University. He was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1972 before running for national office.