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BOSTON (Reuters) - Democratic Representative Barney Frank, one of the most liberal U.S. lawmakers and co-author of the new controversial financial regulation law, easily won re-election on Tuesday after a bitter campaign.
Frank, 70, has been in the House of Representatives for three decades. He has chaired the powerful House Financial Services Committee since 2007, a post he will lose if Republicans win control of the House.
He pushed through the sweeping law this year to crack down on mortgage and credit card abuses and set up an independent consumer protection bureau after the financial crisis.
Claiming victory, Frank slammed the ugly nature of the 2010 election season and "anonymous, smear tactic money" that has flowed freely in many electoral races.
"The campaigns run by most Republicans were beneath the dignity of a democracy and I'm delighted that they were repudiated," he said.
Frank beat Republican Sean Bielat, 35, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and business consultant, who had pounded Frank about billions of dollars in federal aid given to government sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
With 87 percent of precincts reporting, Frank was polling 57 percent of votes to Bielat's 40 percent, a wider margin of victory than recent polls had suggested.
In the weeks before the election, money from conservative backers around the country had poured into the effort to oust the powerful, openly gay Democrat, to whom Republicans assigned blame for the years-long U.S. housing market crisis.
In response, Frank borrowed $200,000 from his retirement account to prop up his campaign spending.
Frank's district stretches from the affluent Boston suburbs of Newton and Wellesley to economically depressed cities of Fall River and New Bedford in southeastern Massachusetts.
Frank attributed anti-incumbent sentiment in the election to the weak economy and unemployment that has remained stubbornly high since the U.S. recession officially ended in 2009.
"There was an unhappiness on the part of many voters, and they are right to be unhappy," Frank said. Democrats "think we have a better way to make things better."
Reporting by Ros Krasny and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Christopher Wilson