From left: Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, 4th district candidate Joe Kennedy III and retiring Rep. Barney Frank attend the Massachusetts Teachers Associations annual delegate meeting.
BOSTON — On the dais in a Hynes Convention Center ballroom here on Saturday, retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D) sat scowling, eyeing the time, next to his likely successor, Joe Kennedy III, who smiled widely.
Frank was about to receive an award at the Massachusetts Teachers Association annual delegates meeting, and MTA President Paul Toner was introducing the 16-term Member to the few hundred attendees. He recalled some of Frank’s more blunt comments over the years to peals of laughter from everyone — except the Congressman.
It was a stark contrast between a 72-year-old who begrudgingly goes through the motions of local politics but still relishes a fight and a 31-year-old who won’t face much of one to come to Congress.
Kennedy, sporting a dark suit, blue shirt and green and gray tie, exuded ebullience at the pomp and circumstance of the event.
Taking the podium, Frank, the co-author of the marquee Wall Street reform law, noted the recent news that a big bank had lost at least $2 billion in risky trades.
“I had to be careful this week with regard to the news of JPMorgan Chase,” Frank said. “There is this lie everybody tells: ‘Oh, I don’t like to say I told you so.’ Well, of course, we all like to say, ‘I told you so!’ It is one of the few pleasures that improves with age.” The audience roared its approval.
Noting his retirement from the 4th district, Frank pledged to stay active in the public debate.
“I guess it’s going to be a transition,” he said. “People were talking about whether I would suffer fools. Now I get to the point where I can focus on what I most want to do, which is to make fools suffer,” he said, his throaty voice increasing in intensity.
The crowd, delegates of the 110,000-strong union, ate it up. And Frank acknowledged the young attorney on the dais with him. “I am very confident that Joe Kennedy will be representing the people that I have represented with great skill and great passion,” he said.
It was a passing of the torch, of sorts. Kennedy faces no real opposition in his bid to succeed Frank in Congress. The announcement that Kennedy, then a local assistant district attorney, would run for office cleared the Democratic field of any serious contenders.
Kennedy, the son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the grandson of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.), raised a whopping $1.3 million in the first quarter of this year. He faces token opposition from Republicans, not because the potential candidates aren’t serious but because he is such a formidable candidate.