- Associated Press - Monday, September 6, 2010

BOSTON | Rep. Barney Frank’s retort was an Internet sensation.

Questioned at a town hall last year about the “Nazi policy” of health care reform, the Massachusetts Democrat told the speaker who made the comment that talking to her was “like arguing with a dining room table.” Fast-forward to this year, the questioner, Rachel Brown, is challenging the 15-term incumbent’s re-election bid.

Ms. Brown said her exchange with Mr. Frank inspired her to run against him Sept. 14 in the Democratic primary in the state’s 4th Congressional District.

“I didn’t realize at the time that if you had a better idea, you should take their seat,” said 29-year-old Ms. Brown, a devotee of economist Lyndon LaRouche.

Mr. Frank, not surprisingly, has an alternate - and sharp-tongued - view.

“I regard her as an example of the price you pay for free speech,” Mr. Frank said. “I don’t think she is very rational.”

Mr. Frank is considered the favorite in the district, which stretches from the well-heeled Boston suburbs of Newton, Wellesley and Dover to the working-class communities of Fall River and New Bedford.

The Democratic incumbent has used his powerful perch as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee to craft an ambitious overhaul of the nation’s financial system that was signed earlier this year, which he says will help prevent future financial crises.

Ms. Brown has zeroed in on Mr. Frank’s role in the overhaul, saying she wants to see the end of government bailouts. Ms. Brown’s platform also includes other, more novel ideas common among LaRouche followers, including the human colonization of Mars.

“I think we need a program in the economy based not on only surviving for the moment, but a policy increasing physical production and allowing new discoveries to be made, with the new frontier being Mars,” Ms. Brown said.

On the Republican side, two businessmen are battling for their party’s nomination and the chance to knock off one of the country’s most prominent Democrats.

Republican Sean Bielat, a 35-year-old Marine reservist and businessman from Brookline, will face off against Earl Sholley, a 62-year-old businessman from Norfolk, as Republicans choose a challenger for the seat.

Mr. Bielat, who has worked for the military technology firm iRobot Corp., said he decided to challenge Mr. Frank because of the “overspending and overreach of government.” He said Mr. Frank has angered many people in the district by treating them disrespectfully and spending his time outside the district, including a recent appearance on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.”

Mr. Sholley, who has lost several previous races for state and federal office, says he believes in limited government and counts “tea party” members among his supporters.

“There is an incredible amount of anger out there against incumbents,” he said.