U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, the pugnacious Democrat who’s represented Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District for three decades now, is in the midst of his toughest re-election fight in years against Republican Sean Bielat, a newcomer and former Marine from Brookline. As I mentioned earlier this month, I’m still skeptical about whether Frank will actually go down to defeat – but anything’s possible in 2010, and Frank is taking few chances.
Part of the reason for my skepticism is because we haven’t had any independent polling done on this race – all the gauges of voter sentiment have come from inside the two campaigns, which are not exactly unbiased sources.
Well, that’s about to change.
Tomorrow at 6 p.m., WPRI 12 will release the results of an exclusive survey of 400 likely voters in the 4th District conducted last weekend by our pollster, Joe Fleming. It’s the only independent poll anybody has done in a race that’s getting national attention, and it will give us a clear read on whether Bielat really stands a chance against Frank. We’ll reveal the results simultaneously on TV and online.
We also want to bring both Frank and Bielat into our studios for a televised debate focused on issues of concern to residents of Bristol County, Mass. The 4th District includes 12 communities there, including New Bedford and Taunton, plus part of Fall River. As a Bristol County native myself, I know how ignored the region often feels – when I lived there it seemed like the Boston stations only covered us when somebody got shot, and the Rhode Island stations have to cover a lot of ground across two states.
With that in mind, WPRI GM Jay Howell offered to air a Frank-Bielat debate – specifically for Bristol County voters – in prime time. “Voters in Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and other area communities deserve the opportunity to watch a televised debate that’s focused on the issues critical to Bristol County,” he said in a statement. “That’s why we’ve been committed to organizing debates in all of the key races this November. There’s still time to make this debate happen, and we are hopeful that Congressman Frank will reconsider his decision and agree to debate Mr. Bielat.”
Originally, both campaigns agreed in principle to come for a debate – but then Frank’s campaign changed its mind, citing scheduling issues. I’m still holding out hope that we’ll make it happen, and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, you can look forward to getting the poll results tomorrow at 6 and finding out once and for all where things stand in the 4th District.
(image credit: Associated Press/Steven Senne)