Town Hall Foe Returns to Challenge Rep. Frank in Massachusetts Primary

BOSTON -- Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank's retort was an Internet sensation.

Questioned at a town hall last year about the "Nazi policy" of health care reform, Frank told the speaker who made the comment that talking to her was "like arguing with a dining room table."

Fast forward to this year, the questioner, Rachel Brown, is challenging the 15-term Democrat's re-election bid.

Brown said her exchange with Frank inspired her to run against him in the Democratic primary in the state's 4th Congressional District.

"I didn't realize at the time that if you had a better idea, you should take their seat," said 29-year-old Brown, a devotee of economist Lyndon LaRouche.

Frank, not surprisingly, has an alternate -- and sharp-tongued -- view.

"I regard her as an example of the price you pay for free speech," Frank said. "I don't think she is very rational."

Frank, the liberal that conservatives love to hate, will face Brown in the Sept. 14 primary.

Frank is considered the favorite in the district, which stretches from the well-heeled Boston suburbs of Newton, Wellesley and Dover to the working-class communities of Fall River and New Bedford.

Frank has used his powerful perch as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee to craft an ambitious overhaul of the nation's financial system that was signed earlier this year, which he says will help prevent future financial crises.

Brown has zeroed in on Frank's role in the overhaul, saying she wants to see the end of government bailouts. Brown's platform also includes other, more novel ideas, including the human colonization of Mars.

"I think we need a program in the economy based not on only surviving for the moment, but a policy increasing physical production and allowing new discoveries to be made, with the new frontier being Mars," Brown said.

Some Massachusetts voters, including Democrats, say they are ready to see a fresh face in Frank's seat.

"Barney was supportive of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when he should have been policing the housing industry," said John Patrick, 46, a Democrat from Milton.

But Chuck Laurette, 36, of Fitchburg, said he believes Barney is no longer the extreme liberal he once was.

"He seems to be taking some more centrist viewpoints, which I like to see," he said.

On the Republican side, two businessmen are battling for their party's nomination and the chance to knock off one of the country's most prominent Democrats.

Republican Sean Bielat, a 35-year-old Marine and businessman from Brookline, will face off against Earl Sholley, a 62-year-old businessman from Norfolk, as the GOP chooses a challenger to Frank.

Bielat, who has worked for the military technology firm iRobot Corp., said he decided to challenge Frank because of the "overspending and overreach of government." He said Frank has angered many people in the district by treating them disrespectfully and spending his time outside the district, including a recent appearance on Jay Leno's show.

"I think there a lot of people who might have liked Barney in the past, but they are upset with his representation, upset with his arrogance of power," he said.

Sholley, who has lost several previous races for state and federal office, says he believes in limited government and counts tea party members among his supporters.

"There is an incredible amount of anger out there against incumbents," Sholley said. "I'm going to be a political hurricane and defeat Barney Frank."