United States Senate election in Massachusetts, 1978

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United States Senate election in Massachusetts, 1978

← 1972 November 7, 1978 1984 →

  Senator Paul Tsongas.jpg Edward Brooke.jpg
Nominee Paul Tsongas Edward Brooke
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 1,093,283 890,584
Percentage 55.06% 44.85%

1978 MA Senate.png
Results by town. Red indicates towns carried by Edward Brooke, blue indicates towns carried by Paul Tsongas.

U.S. Senator before election

Edward Brooke

Elected U.S. Senator

Paul Tsongas

The United States Senate election of 1978 in Massachusetts was held on November 7, 1978, with the incumbent Republican Senator Edward Brooke being defeated by then Democratic Congressman Paul E. Tsongas.




General election campaign[edit]

Early in the campaign season, Brooke was considered a favorite for re-election.[1] Tsongas was a relatively unknown Representative statewide and nationally, whereas Brooke remained something of an icon as the first popularly-elected black Senator and a member of Republican leadership.

However, Brooke faced mounting scrutiny from the news media after his decision to divorce from his wife of 29 years, Remigia, in 1975. The couple had been separated for many years and Brooke was frequently seen in the company of other women in Washington, including Barbara Walters. After Senator Brooke filed for divorce, Remigia responded with a suit of her own, alleging "cruel and abusive treatment." While not directly addressing Brooke's divorce, Tsongas attacked Brooke as out of touch with Massachusetts voters and too "Washington-oriented."[1][2][3]

Both candidates were considered liberals by contemporary definition, with Brooke known as a public supporter of the women's rights movement of the time[2] and Tsongas receiving a perfect rating from the group Americans for Democratic Action. Tsongas was seen as the more liberal of the two, but Brooke ultimately received the support of many liberal Democrats and civil rights leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, and Barney Frank.[4]

The issue of Brooke's divorce became more politically serious in May 1978, when The Boston Globe reported that as part of the divorce proceedings, Brooke had lied about the source of a personal loan. While Brooke argued that the loan had no material impact on his divorce and that he had broken no law, the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a lengthy investigation into the matter that is believed to have hurt Brooke's credibility and standing in the race.[4]

Race was another major issue, demonstrated by the reaction to anti-segregation busing policies in the commonwealth. Brooke was a major opponent of anti-busing legislation, having successfully campaigned against the Biden Amendment to end federal funding of busing programs.[5] Brooke's support of busing policies likely cost him votes in Boston and other working-class white communities, which had rioted in preceding years over the issue. Prominent South Boston politician Louise Day Hicks decried Brooke as an "apostle of urban neglect."[6] For his part, Tsongas largely avoided the busing issue, but did make the claim that voting for Brooke on the basis of his race was "the other side of racism."[4]


Paul Tsongas

U.S. Senators

  • Ted Kennedy, senior United States Senator from Massachusetts


  • Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
  • John Updike, novelist
Ed Brooke

U.S. Senators

  • Barry Goldwater, United States Senator from Arizona and Republican nominee for President in 1964


  • Barney Frank, member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader
  • Coretta Scott King, civil rights leader and wife of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



Republican primary [7]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Edward Brooke 146,351 53.25%
Republican Avi Nelson 128,388 46.72%
All others 78 0.03%
Democratic primary [8]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Paul Tsongas 296,915 35.55%
Democratic Paul Guzzi 258,960 31.01%
Democratic Kathleen Sullivan Alioto 161,036 19.28%
Democratic Howard Phillips 65,397 7.83%
Democratic Elaine Noble 52,464 6.28%
All others 379 0.05%

General election[edit]

General election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Paul E. Tsongas 1,093,283 55.06%
Republican Edward Brooke 890,584 44.85%
All others 1,833 0.09%
Total votes 1,985,700 68.01%

See also[edit]

External links and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jr, B. Drummond Ayres (1978-11-09). "Tsongas Played Underdog Role To Oust Brooke in Senate Race". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  2. ^ a b "'Who Is Remigia Brooke?'". Washington Post. 1978-07-11. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  3. ^ "After Years Apart, Senator Brooke and His Italian Wife File for Divorce—and Tempers Erupt". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  4. ^ a b c Sokol, Jason (2014). All Eyes are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn. New York, NY: Basic Books. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-0-465-05671-2.
  5. ^ Sokol, Jason. "How a Young Joe Biden Turned Liberals Against Integration". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Adam (2003-10-23). "Louise Day Hicks Dies at 87". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  7. ^ http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=290354
  8. ^ http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=290355