Niki Tsongas

Niki Tsongas
A photograph of a middle-aged woman with short, blonde hair, smiling.  She wears a gray suit, and is posed sitting before an American flag, hanging behind her to the left.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Jim McGovern
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th district
In office
October 16, 2007  January 3, 2013
Preceded by Marty Meehan
Succeeded by Ed Markey
Personal details
Born Nicola Dickson Sauvage
(1946-04-26) April 26, 1946
Chico, California
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Paul Tsongas
(1969–1997; his death)
Children 3
Residence Lowell, Massachusetts
Alma mater
Religion Episcopalian[1]

Nicola Dickson "Niki" Sauvage Tsongas (/ˈsɒŋɡəs/; born April 26, 1946) is an American politician and the current U.S. Representative for Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district. From 2007 to 2013 she represented Massachusetts's 5th congressional district, the district her husband Paul Tsongas served prior to being elected to the United States Senate. She is a member of the Democratic Party. Following John Kerry's appointment as Secretary of State, she was widely expected to run in the 2013 special election for the Senate seat once held by her husband; she put such speculations to rest when she announced her endorsement of Representative Ed Markey instead.

Family, education, and career

Tsongas was born Nicola Dickson Sauvage on April 26, 1946, in Chico, California. Her mother Marian Susan (née Wyman) was an artist and copywriter, and her father Colonel Russell Elmer Sauvage was an engineer in the United States Army Air Forces who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.[2] Tsongas graduated in 1964 from Narimasu American High School in Japan while her father was stationed at Fuchu Air Force Base. Tsongas spent one year at Michigan State University, then transferred to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and graduated in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts in religion.[3][4] After college she moved to New York City, where she took a job as a social worker for the Department of Welfare.[5] Tsongas earned her Juris Doctor from Boston University and started Lowell's first all-female law practice.[6]

Tsongas interned in Arlington, Virginia, for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy during summer 1967; at a party while there she met Paul Tsongas, then an aide to Republican Congressman Brad Morse. In 1969, she married Paul; they had three daughters: Ashley, Katina, and Molly.[7][8] A politician, Paul served in the House from Massachusetts's 5th congressional district from 1975 to 1979, and the Senate from 1979 to 1985. After being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Paul resigned from Congress. Tsongas moved their family from Washington, D.C., back to Massachusetts to care for Paul as he underwent treatments.[9] After seemingly being cured of his disease, in 1992 Paul ran for the Democratic Party nomination for President; he came in third behind former California Governor Jerry Brown and eventual winner Bill Clinton. Paul's cancer later returned; he died of pneumonia and liver failure on January 18, 1997.

Prior to her election to the House, Tsongas worked as the Dean of External Affairs at Middlesex Community College,[5] as a Board Member of Fallon Health[10] and served on the Lowell Civic Stadium and Arena Commission, which oversees several sites including the Tsongas Arena.[5] In 2001, Representative Marty Meehan appointed Tsongas to head a foundation to provide education funding for children of the victims of the September 11 attacks.[11]

U.S. House of Representatives


After Marty Meehan resigned in 2007 to serve as Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Tsongas ran in the special election. Tsongas defeated four other candidates to win the Democratic primary with 36% of the vote.[12] During her initial campaign Tsongas received endorsements from The Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and the Lowell Sun.[13][14] During the general election, former President Bill Clinton, who defeated her husband for the Democratic nomination in 1992, campaigned for her. At an event in Lowell Clinton remarked: "Congress will be a better place because she is there."[15] Tsongas won the special election against Republican Jim Ogonowski with 51% of the vote on October 17;[16] she became the only female Representative from Massachusetts, and the first female representative from Massachusetts since the retirement of Margaret Heckler in 1983, who became Secretary of Health and Human Services under Ronald Reagan.

After running unopposed in 2008, in 2010 Tsongas faced Republican Jon Golnik, a small businessman and former Wall Street currency trader. During the campaign Tsongas attacked Golnik's history as a Vice President of AIG,[17] which Golnik called hypocritical, as she had stock in AIG and other large corporations.[18] Tsongas defeated Golnik with 52% of the vote.[19] Following redistricting after the 2010 census, Tsongas ran for re-election in the reconfigured Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district in 2012. In a rematch, she again defeated Golnick.[20]


Committee assignments
114th Congress (2015–17)[21]

A major issue in her initial election was whether the two candidates would vote to override President George W. Bush's veto of an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Tsongas said she would vote to override, and it was reported Ogonowski would uphold the veto.[22] Hours after being sworn into office on October 18, Tsongas voted to override, but the vote failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority.[23]

As a candidate in 2007, Tsongas promised to withdraw troops and end the Iraq War.[24] The first bill she introduced aimed to do this by implementing a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq; however, the bill died in committee.[25] In 2010, Tsongas along with other women in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, visited Afghanistan to oversee the war effort. Upon returning, Tsongas spoke of the need for the involvement of women in rebuilding of government.[26]

Tsongas is an advocate for universal health care and supports a public health insurance option.[27][28] In 2010 she voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.[29] In 2012 Tsongas joined a Republican-led effort to repeal a 2.3% sales tax on medical-device manufacturers, which passed the House 270–146; 36 other Democrats voted for it.[30] Tsongas is pro-choice and received a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood in 2008.[31] A supporter of LGBT rights, Tsongas cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act;[32] and voted for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which allows homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces.

Following Anthony Weiner's first sexting scandal, Tsongas was the only Representative from Massachusetts to call for his resignation, saying that "it would be appropriate for [him] to step down."[33] In the 2012 Massachusetts Senate election, Tsongas was the first major Democratic politician to endorse the winner, Elizabeth Warren, whom she called "a fighter for middle class families".[34] Following President Barack Obama's designation of John Kerry as United States Secretary of State, there was much speculation that she would run for his seat, which her husband had previously held.[35] Though Tsongas briefly considered a run, she responded she would best be able to serve the people of Massachusetts by continuing to serve in the House, and instead endorsed fellow Representative Ed Markey.[36][37]

On January 23, 2013, Tsongas introduced the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Act (H.R. 412; 113th Congress), a bill that would amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate certain segments concerning the Nashua River in Massachusetts for study for potential addition to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.[38] Tsongas discussed the river's history and past pollution problems in her testimony about the bill.[39] She argued that the study would allow stakeholders to work together to "ensure that it remains a great place for canoeing, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors."[39]


  1. Elina Troshina (August 24, 2010). "MA Congresswoman Niki Tsongas ('88) Running for Re-election". Boston University School of Law. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  2. "Women Profiles: Niki Tsongas". Iowa State University. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  3. "The Honorable Niki Tsongas". United States Air Force Academy. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 Tsongas 2009.
  5. Ken Cleveland (November 2, 2012). "Tsongas, Golnik compete in rematch". The Item. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  6. Sridhar Pappu (November 24, 2007). "Mrs. Tsongas Comes to Washington". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  7. Karen De Witt (February 21, 1992). "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN Man in the News: Paul Ethemios Tsongas; A Politician Who Thought He Could". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  8. Carol Stocker (June 4, 1991). "NIKI TSONGAS STANDS BY HER MAN Paul Tsongas' wife says his cancer's the past, presidency is his future". The Boston Globe. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  9. "Niki Tsongas, Board Member of Fallon Community Health Plan, Elected to Congress". Alliance of Community Health Plans. October 24, 2007. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  10. Negri, Gloria (August 26, 2002). "Scholarship fund helps 9/11 families". The Boston Globe. p. B3. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  11. Matt Viser and Eric Moskowitz (September 5, 2007). "Tsongas wins primary for 5th". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  12. "Niki Tsongas Endorsed by Boston Globe and Boston Herald" (PDF). Niki Tsongas for Congress. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  13. "Sun backs Tsongas". Blue Mass. Group. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
  14. Josh Kurtz (September 20, 2007). "President Clinton Will Stump for Niki Tsongas". Roll Call. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  15. Eric Moskowitz (October 17, 2007). "Tsongas wins in Fifth District". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  16. Lyle Moran (October 26, 2010). "Tsongas targets Golnik's work". The Sun (Lowell). Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  17. Lyle Moran (October 25, 2013). "Golnik: Tsongas' former investments make her attacks 'hypocritical'". The Sun (Lowell). Retrieved April 5, 2013.
  18. Ross Marrinson (November 4, 2010). "Tsongas defeats Golnik, will return to D.C. for second full term". Haverhill Gazette. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  19. Brian Messenger (November 6, 2012). "Tsongas wins over Golnik for Congress". The Eagle-Tribune. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  20. "Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass)". Roll Call (CQ).
  21. Edward Mason (October 5, 2007). "5th District race: Ogonowski, Tsongas tangle over Bush veto". The Eagle-Tribune. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  22. "After taking oath, Tsongas votes to override veto". The Boston Globe. October 18, 2007. Archived from the original on February 15, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  23. Finucane, Martin (January 8, 2008). "Tsongas to visit troops in the Middle East". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  24. McCutcheon & Lyons 2009
  25. Matt Viser (May 11, 2010). "Tsongas returns from Afghanistan trip". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  26. Niki Tsongas (April 25, 2007). "On Universal Health Care". Blue Mass Group. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  27. Jesse Floyd (November 5, 2009). "Rep. Tsongas reports to district". Wicked Local - Littleton. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  28. Brian Messenger (October 28, 2012). "Rematch: Tsongas vs. Golnik in new 3rd District". The Eagle-Tribune. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  29. Chris Camire (June 9, 2012). "Tsongas backs repeal tax on medical devices". Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  30. Erin Gloria Ryan (January 5, 2013). "101 Facts About 100 Women of the House and Senate". Jezebel. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  31. "Respect for Marriage Act Co-Sponsors". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  32. Joanne Rathe (June 16, 2011). "Weinergate: Only Tsongas speaks out". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  33. "Rep. Niki Tsongas endorses Elizabeth Warren for Senate". The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts). October 4, 2011. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  34. Ed Henry and Chad Pergram (December 15, 2012). "Obama purportedly to nominate Kerry, sparking speculation about his Senate seat". Fox News Channel. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  35. "Tsongas Will Not Run For Senate; Kerry Supports Markey". WBUR. December 28, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  36. Josh Collins (December 29, 2012). "Tsongas rules out run for Kerry's seat as Markey's support grows". The Sun (Lowell). Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  37. "H.R. 412 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  38. 1 2 "Tsongas testifies in favor of bill to designate Nashua River as Wild and Scenic". House Office of Rep. Tsongas. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Marty Meehan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th congressional district

October 16, 2007–January 3, 2013
Succeeded by
Ed Markey
Preceded by
Jim McGovern
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district

January 3, 2013–present
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Yarmuth
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Bob Latta
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