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Frank challenger steps up campaign effort

Morse opens office, plans fund-raiser

Chuck Morse, a conservative radio talk show host from Brookline who has never held elected office, is stepping up his campaign to unseat US Representative Barney Frank, a 12-term Democrat.

Morse, 47, has opened a campaign office near the New Bedford City Hall, has hired a campaign manager and is planning a Washington fund-raiser. His fundraising, though, is relatively thin: He raised $15,109 last year, compared with $304,328 collected by Frank.

Frank ran unopposed in 2002. But this year, Morse has accused the liberal congressman of hurting the country by voting against the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the war in Iraq, and military spending.

"It was dangerous to vote against Homeland Security in these times," said Morse, a prolific author. "I don't know how he can face people."

Last summer, Morse vowed to raise $100,000 by January. Morse now hopes to reach the $100,000 mark by March, said Ben Kilgore, the new campaign manager. He is seeking endorsements from the US Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Tax Reform, a national antitax group.

Governor Mitt Romney won the district in 2002, and Morse said he is poised to end the Democratic monopoly of the state's congressional delegation. "It's the most intriguing political race in America," Kilgore said. "We are not laboring in obscurity."

Despite the optimism, political observers considered it unlikely that Morse will topple Frank, who was first elected in 1980.

"Frank doesn't have a lot to worry about," said Dennis Hale, a political science professor at Boston College. "Romney didn't run as a right-wing Republican. He ran as a moderate Republican."

After failing to register as a Republican by June 1, Morse was forced to run as an Independent. Kilgore said Morse had only "informal" support from the state and national Republican Party.

Frank said he would open a campaign office, hire a part-time campaign manager, and launch a reelection website.

Calling Morse the most right-wing opponent he has ever faced, Frank defended his voting record.

Frank said he supported the war in Afghanistan, and opposed creating the Department of Homeland Security over labor issues. His opposition to defense spending, he said, was in protest of purchasing nuclear submarines and B-1 bombers, weapons he said were suited for the Cold War.

Frank also defended his vote against the war in Iraq, a topic he has debated on the Chuck Morse Show on WROL-AM. "I feel very vindicated about that," he said. In his books, Frank said, Morse calls Al Gore a Communist, and hints that the US government coordinated the Oklahoma City bombing. Morse, who is opposed to gay marriage, is too conservative for the district, Frank said.

"He said he's running as a Romney Republican," Frank said. "He's considerably to the right of the Massachusetts Republicans."

Morse rejects the right-wing label. "I don't think Barney Frank, as a very liberal Democrat, is in a position to bring home the goods to his district," he said.

Benjamin Gedan can be reached at gedan@globe.com.

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