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Race to Replace Frank Could Be Competitive

Race to Replace Frank Could Be Competitive

By Sean Trende - November 28, 2011


Rep. Barney Frank announced Monday that he will not seek election to a 17th term. While the seat will definitely lean toward the Democrats, the election to replace Frank will likely be somewhat competitive.

Massachusetts lost a seat in the 2010 decennial redistricting. In addition to eliminating that seat, state Democrats wanted to shore up the party’s performance in the former 10th district, in southeastern Massachusetts. As such, Frank's district was changed fairly dramatically, and about half of it would have been new territory for him. In particular, the district lost some white working-class towns in the southern portion of the state to the 9th district (based on the old 10th), while adding some suburban territory.

This doesn't make much difference at the presidential voting level. Massachusetts suburbanites tend to dislike the social conservatism of the national Republican Party and cast their votes accordingly for Democrats. But at the state level, these suburbanites held the key to the Republican gubernatorial wins from 1990 through 2002, and for Scott Brown’s Senate win in early 2010.

And so, Frank’s would-be Democratic successor will find him- or herself running in a district that barely went for Democrat Deval Patrick (who won statewide by six points) in 2010 and that gave Republican Brown a 10-point win. The district has also added the hometown of Richard Ross, Scott Brown’s successor in the state Senate, while retaining the home of Sean Bielat, who last year gave Frank his only truly difficult race in decades.

The Democrats should win this race, but if Republicans field a solid challenger, they’ll have a shot at picking off the seat. 

Sean Trende is senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics. He is a co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics and author of The Lost Majority. He can be reached at strende@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @SeanTrende.

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