ATTLEBORO - After a spirited but unsuccessful campaign to defeat US Representative Barney Frank in 2010, Republican Sean Bielat announced yesterday that he will try again to win the seat, which is wide open in November because Frank is retiring.
“Welcome back for round two,’’ Bielat told a cheering crowd of about 70 supporters last night at the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum. “We started something in 2010, and we’re going to finish it in 2012.’’
The 36-year-old Marine Corps reservist said that he comes from humble roots and took what many in the crowd viewed as a swipe at a potential Democratic challenger, Joseph P. Kennedy III, son of a former congressman and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy.
“Nobody should expect to succeed in this country by virtue of their birth,’’ Bielat said. “I don’t know why you’re applauding. Do you think that refers to someone?’’
Kennedy, 31, announced recently that he was leaving his job as a Middlesex County prosecutor to form an exploratory committee, a legal step toward to an expected candidacy.
Bielat told reporters later that he doubted Kennedy, “a 31-year-old guy coming [from] outside the district,’’ would get so much media attention if not for his family name.
A former program manager at the iRobot Corp. in Bedford, Bielat said during his speech that the country must return to the concept of the citizen legislator, someone who serves in Congress for a short time and then returns to the private sector. He said later that if elected, he would serve only two or three terms.
Like virtually every candidate for elective office this cycle, he told reporters that economic growth would be the centerpiece of his campaign. He said that growth can be achieved in part by simplifying corporate regulations and the US tax code.
During his speech, he also called for a smaller federal government focusing mainly on national defense, interstate commerce, and trade, leaving most of the other tasks to local bodies.
Bielat’s views will have no appeal for the district, asserted John Walsh, chairman of the state Democratic Party.
“In 2010, with the Tea Party wind in his sails and in the worst national political climate Democrats have known for a generation, Bielat could not convince Massachusetts voters to give him a chance,’’ Walsh said. “Now it looks like he has moved back to Massachusetts, again, to run the same failed campaign based on the same extremist Tea Party ideas. Groundhog Day has come early to Massachusetts.’’
Bielat, of Norfolk, emerged in 2010 as the toughest challenger to Frank’s incumbency in nearly two decades, pulling in donations from Republicans across the country who were tantalized by the possibility of unseating a liberal stalwart in an election year dominated by the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
He later faced scrutiny when the Globe reported that he paid himself $10,000 in salary drawn from his campaign account in the final weeks of the election, but waited to disclose the move until after the race.
Bielat acknowledged that he held off taking the salary until the final weeks of the campaign to avoid sparking a debate that would deflect attention from the issues during the home stretch. He said he and his wife were cash-strapped as Election Day approached.
While not prohibited on the federal level, personal salary payments are rare.
Yesterday, he scoffed at the notion that a Democratic challenger could use the payment issue against him during a general election, saying “if someone wants to hit me for not being wealthy,’’ he can withstand the attack.
The Fourth Congressional District looks very different now than it did during the last election. During the redistricting process, state lawmakers shifted a big portion of Frank’s territory from the South Coast, including the Democratic bases of Fall River and New Bedford, to the Blackstone Valley.
Frank told the Globe in November that if lawmakers had kept his base largely intact, he would have sought reelection to the seat that he first won in 1980.
Bielat said yesterday in an interview that the district is still challenging for a Republican contender.
“It is definitely tilted Democratic,’’ he said. “This is Massachusetts.’’
Bielat moved to Pennsylvania in the fall with his wife, Hope, and their son, Theodore, to be near family while the couple had their second child, Seraphina.
The temporary move has not gone unnoticed by Democrats. Walsh, the Democratic party chair, called Bielat a Pennsylvanian in yesterday’s statement.
Bielat will face at least one primary challenger for the GOP nomination: Elizabeth Childs of Brookline, who has formally declared she will join the race.
Besides Kennedy on the Democratic side, Michael P. Ross, a member of the Boston City Council, has announced the formation of an exploratory committee. Paul Heroux, an Attleboro consultant, and Herb Robinson, a Newton software engineer, have declared themselves candidates for the Democratic nomination.