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Barney Frank exit may signal the end of glory days for Mass. Democrats

Barney Frank will not seek re-election in 2012, but will there be enough Democratic fire power left in Massachusetts after he's gone?

By STEVE LEBLANCAssociated Press / November 30, 2011

Barney Frank announces he will not seek reelection in 2012, Monday, in Newton, Mass.

Stephan Savoia/AP

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Rep. Barney Frank's decision to step down at the end of his term is the latest jolt to the bruised ego of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, which once counted Kennedys, House speakers and a president among its ranks.

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Instead, some of the state's best-known political figures are now Republicans, among them Sen. Scott Brown and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

"For a long time, Massachusetts Democrats have felt they played a special role in the national Democratic Party," said Tufts University political science professor Jeffrey Berry. "I think that has gone at this point. There is no one in Congress from Massachusetts who has that stature now."

Frank has long been a liberal lightning rod and is the highest-profile member of the state's all-Democratic House delegation. His announcement follows the decision of another Massachusetts representative, John Olver, a member of the House Appropriations panel, not to seek re-election.

Add to those impending departures the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2009 and the state's loss of a House seat in the most recent redistricting process, and some Democrats in Massachusetts are wondering whether the glory days are behind them.

While the state's senior senator, John Kerry, has a powerful perch as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and often serves as a troubleshooter across the globe for the Obama administration, there's been plenty of speculation that if Obama wins re-election, Kerry could be tapped to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

That would rob Massachusetts of a strong Senate presence.

Part of the decline is due to inexorable demographic changes that are working against the relatively small Northeastern state.

While Southern and Southwestern states have experienced population booms, Massachusetts has seen anemic growth, leading to the loss of one of its 10 seats in Congress.

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