Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection in 2012, ending a three-decade career in the House.

Frank, 71, is the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and the architect, with former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), of the sweeping Wall Street regulatory reform law enacted in 2010.

He announced his decision at an afternoon press conference in his hometown of Newton, Mass., where he said redistricting played a major role in his retirement.

“I was planning to run again, and then congressional redistricting came,” Frank said.

Frank’s retirement will deprive the House of one of its most colorful characters, a liberal stalwart known for his quick and often caustic wit.

Elected in 1980, Frank survived scandal early in his career and rose to become the nation’s most powerful openly-gay elected official. After coming out publicly, he became a champion for gay rights and helped campaign for an end to the military’s ban on gays serving openly. The repeal of that policy took effect this year.

His legislative legacy is likely to be the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that passed in 2010 in the wake of the Wall Street meltdown that sent the economy into a tailspin in 2008. Hailed by the Obama administration, the law has drawn sharp criticism in the Republican presidential nomination fight, and one leading contender, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), even suggested that Frank be jailed, along with Dodd, for their support of the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the lead up to the financial crisis.

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