By Richard Gaines
---- — Retired Congressman Barney Frank’s unabashed campaign for the gubernatorial appointment as interim U.S. senator gathered momentum Monday, with a push from a Gloucester representative.
In a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick, two Democratic state reps — Ann-Margaret Ferrante of Gloucester and Christopher Markey of New Bedford —urged the governor to pick Frank to fill Sen. John Kerry’s seat on an interim basis, assuming Kerry is confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton. Her resignation is expected soon after the second inauguration of President Obama on Jan 21.
Ferrante also said she expected more support from among her State House colleagues for Frank’s appointment but did not want to delay the release of the letter, which echoes the sentiments of newly minted Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Warren was quoted in Sunday’s Boston Herald as saying, “If he is appointed to be a senator, I have no doubt he will be extraordinary.”
Frank and Ferrante both advised Warren on fisheries issues in her victorious campaign last November. Christopher Markey, a former assistant district attorney, also worked closely with Frank, the acknowledged champion of fishermen along the East Coast. Frank represented the city of New Bedford from his seat in Congress from 1981 until last week, when he walked away from a reconfigured district that would have left him only a slice of New Bedford.
A day later he told MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that he’d like the opportunity to fill in for Kerry until a special election is held, which in Massachusetts must be between 145 and 160 days after a seat is vacated.
”It’s about being ready instantaneously in three months,” Frank said in a Monday telephone interview with the Times.
Frank campaigned hard for Warren, but he also worked closely with now former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown on fisheries issues and — together with fellow Democratic Congressman John Tierney, who represents Cape Ann — led an insurgency against the fisheries policies of Jane Lubchenco, who was put in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by President Obama in 2009 and is stepping down next month.
Kathryn Prael, Tierney’s spokeswoman, said Monday that the congressman “believes Barney Frank would be an excellent choice.
“While it is unclear who else is under consideration,” Prael said, “Mr. Frank would be ideal and Congressman Tierney trusts the Governor will treat this very seriously and use his best judgment. Mr. Frank’s experience and proven leadership, as well as his concern for working families and our fishing community would serve the position well.”
The idea of Frank in the Senate does not have universal appeal even among like-minded Democrats. Doug Rubin, a political consultant to both the governor and Senate candidate Warren tweeted that “there are better options,” but Patrick, while seemingly non-plussed that Frank had gone public with the news that he had called the governor to put his name on the list of possibles, acknowledged that Frank would make a “great senator.”
Machiavellian opinion also surfaced that Frank was hoping for the appointment as a form of get-back against his longtime colleague in the House, Edward Markey of Malden, who sided with Lubchenco and the green side of the party and was out first in announcing his intention to run to succeed Kerry in the special election.
In 2011, Frank had groused that Markey, as dean of the delegation, had selfishly protected his own congressional seat in the redistricting that helped convince Frank to retire; thus lay the basis for the suggestion that Markey was unexcited about the prospects of having Frank in a Senate seat he wanted, and in position to highlight their philosophical differences, especially on fishing, where Frank’s priority was on fishery jobs.
In an email, Markey’s spokeswoman, Giselle Barry threw cold water on that notion, saying, “‘Ed Markey has been proud to serve and fight along side Barney Frank in Congress. The reports that suggest he is concerned about Rep. Frank’s name being considered for an interim Senate appointment are completely false.”
“Barney Frank is a great congressman,” she added. “Rep. Markey has full confidence that Governor Patrick will appoint the best person to represent Massachusetts before the Senate seat can be permanently filled.”
“As we engage in the politics of the next six months,” wrote Ferrante and Christopher Markey, who is no relation to the congressman, “it is crucial that the commonwealth have an activist senator who will be heard on behalf of our constituency.
“Certainly, issues such as the debt ceiling, spending cuts, and revenue increases will be at the center of national debate,” Ferrante and Markey wrote. “Congressman Frank is well versed in all of these, and I am convinced that both on the Senate floor and in negotiations, he will have the knowledge and the experience to think on his feet and make the right decisions.
”Equally as critical for our districts, however, is our fishing industry,” they added. “In the last few months, President Obama will appoint a new Secretary of Commerce and a new head of NOAA. After the disastrous experience of Jane Lubchenco, we believe that Barney Frank should be our senator along with Elizabeth Warren at the Senate Confirmation hearings to be sure the president’s nominees are vetted and held accountable on behalf of the Commonwealth’s fishery and our fishermen.”
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.