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Niki Tsongas

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Niki Tsongas
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd district
In office
October 16, 2007 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byMarty Meehan
Succeeded byLori Trahan
Personal details
Nicola Dickson Sauvage

(1946-04-26) April 26, 1946 (age 78)
Chico, California, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1969; died 1997)
WebsiteArchive of House website

Nicola Dickson "Niki" Tsongas (/ˈsɒŋɡəs/; née Sauvage; born April 26, 1946) is an American politician who served as a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts from 2007 to 2019. She held the seat formerly held by her husband, the late Paul Tsongas, for the district numbered as Massachusetts's 5th congressional district from 2007 to 2013 and as Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district from 2013 to 2019. She is a member of the Democratic Party. In August 2017 Tsongas announced that she would not seek another term in the November 2018 election.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

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. She spent one year at Michigan State University, then transferred to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduating 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]

Early career[edit]

Tsongas interned in Arlington, Virginia, for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy during summer 1967; at a party 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] 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, he declined to seek a second term in the Senate; he resigned the day before his term expired. The Tsongases moved from Washington, D.C., back to Massachusetts for Paul to undergo treatments.[9] After seemingly being cured of his disease, in 1992 Paul ran for the Democratic 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.

Before 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 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[edit]


After Marty Meehan resigned in 2007 to serve as chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Tsongas ran in the special election. She 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 Massachusetts, 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 from that state since the 1983 retirement of Margaret Heckler, 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 owned 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 reelection in the reconfigured Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district in 2012. In a rematch, she again defeated Golnik.[20]


Tsongas' official 5th District portrait
Committee assignments
114th Congress (2015–2017)[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, and it was reported that Ogonowski would not.[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.[25] In 2010, along with other women in Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Tsongas visited Afghanistan to oversee the war effort. Upon returning, she 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, she 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 gays and lesbians to serve openly in the United States Armed Forces.

Following Anthony Weiner's first sexting scandal, Tsongas was the only Representative from Massachusetts to call for his resignation, saying, "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 Elizabeth Warren, whom she called "a fighter for middle-class families".[34] After President Barack Obama appointed John Kerry as United States Secretary of State, there was much speculation that Tsongas would run in the special election for his seat, which her husband had also previously held.[35] She briefly considered a run, but decided she would best be able to serve the people of Massachusetts by staying in the House, and endorsed fellow Representative Ed Markey.[36][37]

In January 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 of 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]

Tsongas was a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus[40] and the U.S.-Japan Caucus.[41]


Opened in 2022, the 87-foot Niki Tsongas bridge in Lowell was named after her.[42]

Electoral history[edit]

2007 Special election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Niki Tsongas 54,363 51.32 −47.66
Republican Jim Ogonowski 47,770 45.10 +45.10
Independent Patrick Murphy 2,170 2.05 +2.05
Independent Kurt Hayes 1,125 1.06 +1.06
Constitution Kevin Thompson 494 0.47 +0.47
Turnout 105,922
Democratic hold Swing -47.66
2008 election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Niki Tsongas (incumbent) 225,947 98.71 +37.39
N/A Write-in 2,960 1.29 −2.29
Turnout 302,397
Democratic hold Swing +37.39
2010 election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Niki Tsongas (incumbent) 122,858 54.84 −43.87
Republican Jonathan A. Golnik 94,646 42.25 +42.25
Independent Dale E. Brown 4,387 1.96 +1.96
Independent Robert M. Clark 1,991 0.89 +0.89
All Others 147 0.07 −1.22
Turnout 229,647
Democratic hold Swing -43.87
2012 Democratic primary results[43]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Nicola Tsongas (incumbent) 24,105 99.2
Democratic Write-ins 196 0.8
Total votes 24,301 100.0
Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district, 2014 [44]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Niki Tsongas (incumbent) 139,104 60.3
Republican Ann Wofford 81,638 35.4
n/a Write-ins 204 0.1
Total votes 230,789 100.0
Democratic hold
Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district, 2016 [45]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Niki Tsongas (incumbent) 236,713 68.7
Republican Ann Wofford 107,519 31.2
n/a Write-ins 360 0.1
Total votes 344,592 100.0
Democratic hold

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillips, Frank (August 9, 2017). "Lowell Democrat Niki Tsongas won't seek another term in Congress". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  2. ^ Elina Troshina (August 24, 2010). "MA Congresswoman Niki Tsongas ('88) Running for Re-election". Boston University School of Law. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  3. ^ "Women Profiles: Niki Tsongas". Iowa State University. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  4. ^ "The Honorable Niki Tsongas". United States Air Force Academy. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Long Bio". Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on October 7, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  6. ^ Ken Cleveland (November 2, 2012). "Tsongas, Golnik compete in rematch". The Item. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  7. ^ Sridhar Pappu (November 24, 2007). "Mrs. Tsongas Comes to Washington". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  8. ^ Karen DeWitt (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.
  9. ^ 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. Archived from the original on January 20, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2013.
  10. ^ "Niki Tsongas, Board Member of Fallon Community Health Plan, Elected to Congress". Alliance of Community Health Plans. October 24, 2007. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Negri, Gloria (August 26, 2002). "Scholarship fund helps 9/11 families". The Boston Globe. p. B3. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  12. ^ Matt Viser and Eric Moskowitz (September 5, 2007). "Tsongas wins primary for 5th". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "Sun backs Tsongas". Blue Mass. Group. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007. Retrieved October 15, 2007.
  15. ^ Josh Kurtz (September 20, 2007). "President Clinton Will Stump for Niki Tsongas". Roll Call. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  16. ^ Eric Moskowitz (October 17, 2007). "Tsongas wins in Fifth District". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  17. ^ Lyle Moran (October 26, 2010). "Tsongas targets Golnik's work". The Sun (Lowell). Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  18. ^ Lyle Moran (October 25, 2013). "Golnik: Tsongas' former investments make her attacks 'hypocritical'". The Sun (Lowell). Retrieved April 5, 2013.
  19. ^ Ross Marrinson (November 4, 2010). "Tsongas defeats Golnik, will return to D.C. for second full term". Haverhill Gazette. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  20. ^ Brian Messenger (November 6, 2012). "Tsongas wins over Golnik for Congress". The Eagle-Tribune. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  21. ^ "Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass)". Roll Call (CQ).
  22. ^ Edward Mason (October 5, 2007). "5th District race: Ogonowski, Tsongas tangle over Bush veto". The Eagle-Tribune. Archived from the original on April 10, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ Finucane, Martin (January 8, 2008). "Tsongas to visit troops in the Middle East". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  25. ^ McCutcheon, Chuck; Lyons, Christina L., eds. (2009). "Rep. Niki Tsongas (D)". CQ's Politics in America 2010: The 111th Congress. Washington: Congressional Quarterly. pp. 494–495. ISBN 978-1604266023. OCLC 655245440.
  26. ^ Matt Viser (May 11, 2010). "Tsongas returns from Afghanistan trip". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 13, 2013.
  27. ^ Niki Tsongas (April 25, 2007). "On Universal Health Care". Blue Mass Group. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  28. ^ Jesse Floyd (November 5, 2009). "Rep. Tsongas reports to district". Wicked Local - Littleton. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  29. ^ Brian Messenger (October 28, 2012). "Rematch: Tsongas vs. Golnik in new 3rd District". The Eagle-Tribune. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  30. ^ Chris Camire (June 9, 2012). "Tsongas backs repeal tax on medical devices". SentinelandEnterprise.com. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  31. ^ Erin Gloria Ryan (January 5, 2013). "101 Facts About 100 Women of the House and Senate". Jezebel. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  32. ^ "Respect for Marriage Act Co-Sponsors". Freedom to Marry. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  33. ^ Joanne Rathe (June 16, 2011). "Weinergate: Only Tsongas speaks out". The Boston Globe. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  34. ^ "Rep. Niki Tsongas endorses Elizabeth Warren for Senate". The Republican (Springfield, Massachusetts). October 4, 2011. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ "Tsongas Will Not Run For Senate; Kerry Supports Markey". WBUR. December 28, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ "H.R. 412 - Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  39. ^ a b "Tsongas testifies in favor of bill to designate Nashua River as Wild and Scenic". House Office of Rep. Tsongas. June 6, 2013. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  40. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  41. ^ "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  42. ^ Lavery, Trea (April 8, 2022). "Lowell bridge dedicated in honor of Niki Tsongas". Lowell Sun. Retrieved October 1, 2022.
  43. ^ "A list of winners in Massachusetts primary races". AP. Boston.com. September 7, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  44. ^ "Massachusetts Secretary of State General Election Results 2016". Massachusetts Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  45. ^ "Massachusetts Secretary of State General Election Results 2016". Massachusetts Secretary of State. November 8, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2016.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative