Should Barney Frank Be Worried? Time for ‘Different Leadership,’ Says Challenger

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports:

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is facing his most serious reelection challenge in recent memory with the emergence of Sean Bielat, a 35-year-old former active-duty Marine who is hoping to follow in Sen. Scott Brown’s footsteps in turning a reliably blue seat red.

Bielat joined us today on ABC’s “Top Line” to outline his candidacy, which has gotten a burst of attention after former President Bill Clinton came to Frank’s district to campaign for the powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

“Scott Brown won here in the Fourth District. I think that's important to note,” Bielat told us. “Around Massachusetts, there are a lot of people who I think are a lot like me. They've grew up Democrats. They never really questioned it and now they're starting to look at where the country is, what they're party is doing, and they're starting to think, how can we get different leadership? How can we get new leadership?”

Bielat, like many Republican challengers, hasn’t signed on to the GOP “Pledge to America” outlined last month – in part, he said, because it doesn’t go far enough in explaining how Republicans would control the size of government.

“They're tough issues to take on politically because there are no good answers from a political standpoint. There are good answers. There good policy answers,” he said.

Bielat outlined some specific ideas for controlling Social Security costs:

"I think, for Social Security, we need to raise the cap on taxable income for payroll taxes. I think we need to raise the retirement age, and there is a lot of fear-mongering about that. I’m not talking about people who are about to retire. I’m not talking about people who are already retired. But, if you look at my generation, if you look at people born after 1970, we can expect, at best, under ideal conditions, only three-quarters of the benefit, despite paying our whole working lives."

“Clearly, reform is in order. In addition, I think we need to emphasize these private savings accounts. Once again, there is fear-mongering on this. Oh, the idea [is that] we're going to privatize Social Security. ‘Nobody will have this safety net.’ That’s not what we're talking about. We need to get realistic about solutions that are sustainable and will shore up the program long-term, while eliminating the drag on the economy, in addition to the debt we're seeing.”

Bielat also said that – in contrast with Frank -- he doesn’t want the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” changed, though he said he would support a repeal if the Defense Department endorses it. The current policy, he argued, doesn’t really keep gay and lesbian service members from serving.

“Right now, there are gays and lesbians serving,” he said. “I guess I don't know what you mean by ‘openly’ [serving] because if I'm aware and other Marines are aware that a Marine is gay or lesbian, it to me seems open. What the current policy prohibits isn't orientation.

"So, the real question is -- the burden of proof should be on the people who want to make the change. Any other change that we make in the military is -- I'll give you an example. When I was on active duty, under a camouflage utility, we wore brown skivvy shirts. We changed to green after a year of study. So, everything that the military looks at changing they study for a long time. Here, we're doing this policy which is going to have massive impact on the administration, and the uniform military code of justice. It's been thrust upon the military by civilian government, and then post-facto they said, yeah, you can study it. I'm saying we should be sure it doesn't diminish ability, adds value, and makes our fighting force more effective."

Asked whether he thinks a repeal would diminish military capability, Bielat said: “I don't know. That's the sort of thing we need to study. If DOD is on board, I'm on board.”

We also checked in with Politico’s Shira Toeplitz on Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s new campaign ad, plus the new ABC News/Washington Post poll showing Democrats beginning to close the enthusiasm gap four weeks before the midterm elections.

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