NEWTON, MA -- It’s a dreary, overcast day in Eastern Massachusetts as I pull into the parking lot of a suburban Boston office complex. I hustle from my car to the front door to escape the drizzle, then proceed down a nondescript hallway before arriving at a door marked “Sean Bielat for Congress.” Inside, the New England fall chill melts in a warm, intimate office that’s humming with activity. Roughly a dozen aides and volunteers man telephones and stuff envelopes, fueled by a plentiful supply of donuts and coffee. This hearty band, comprised of disaffected Democrats, independents, and even a few Bay State Republicans, has been placing over 5,000 campaign calls per day and processing countless mailers since the primary election. They’re united behind a simple, common purpose: Retiring Congressman Barney Frank.
A large Marine Corps flag adorns 35-year-old Sean Bielat’s campaign office wall, along with a photograph of Winston Churchill. Each serves as a reminder of the candidate’s impressive biography and personal inspiration. Bielat served on active duty in the US Marine Corps from 1998-2002 and remains a reservist today. He holds degrees from Georgetown, Harvard, and UPenn, and has forged a successful career as a businessman and consultant. Ultimately, though, his credentials will not determine this race. It’s all about Barney Frank.
Not too long ago, Bielat’s campaign to unseat Frank was considered quixotic. Last year, conventional wisdom took shape: Frank was a safe representative, occupying a safe seat, in a safe state. After all, it was argued, Frank is a 14-term incumbent in a gerrymandered, liberal district. Case closed. Then came the warning signs. Scott Brown earned a narrow victory in the district in January, carrying 50 percent of the vote. Months later, a late September poll showed Bielat within ten points of Frank, and the incumbent couldn’t hit the critical 50 percent mark. Within a week, former President Bill Clinton rushed into the district to stump for Frank. In late October, Frank began touting an internal campaign poll pegging his lead over Bielat at 19 points, yet curiously saw it necessary to loan his campaign $200,000 a few days later. Yet to the chagrin of conservatives nationwide, the latest independent voter surveys show a double-digit Frank advantage—despite all the national attention and money pouring into the race. Far from seeming discouraged, however, Bielat says he’s got Frank exactly where he wants him.