Republican Sean Bielat, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in 2010, is staffing up for a possible second bid for the seat now that Frank is retiring, and could announce in January.
Bielat has retained the Prosper Group, a Republican consulting firm that worked on his 2010 campaign where he won the GOP primary but lost to Frank in the general by 11 points. Bielat has also enlisted Paul Hatch, a former head of the Republican Governors Association, and is working to hire additional consultants, said a source close to the campaign.
Bielat won't be the only Republican in the race. Physician Elizabeth Childs had already announced a campaign to unseat Frank before he made public his retirement plans.
Although Frank's district was made slightly more competitive by redistricting, Democrats still have the advantage. But Bielat is hoping that the hunger for economic growth will lead more middle class voters in Massachusetts to consider voting Republican.
"It's been nonstop contact from people: former supporters, volunteers, more senior representatives, elected representatives in Massachusetts, national contributors," Bielat said in an interview a few days after Frank announced he was retiring. "Politically, it's all there."
Although keenly aware that statewide and national politics will play heavily into this House race, Bielat said he isn't sure whether those elements will help or hurt.
Sen. Scott Brown, the only Republican in the Bay State's congressional delegation, will be on the ticket, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's (R) name could easily be there too as the GOP presidential nominee.
That could give Bielat a boost, if it sends a signal to the state's mostly Democratic voters that Republican politicians have a place in Massachusetts. Conversely, Bielat said, some Democrats may be uncomfortable voting Republican up and down the ballot.
Massachusetts is also one of the only states where having President Obama's name on the ballot will likely help Democrats. And there's another Democratic candidate whose name is likely to appear on the ballot who could drive higher-than-average turnout for Democrats in 2012: Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, who is favored to win the Democratic Senate primary.
But Bielat said that while Massachusetts overall remains strongly Democratic, it is losing some of its liberal edge. And after 30 years of Frank's notoriously acerbic wit, Bielat said, voters are sure to be in the market for something different.
"After a while, people get tired of their congressman being rude, being difficult even with his own constituents."