Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: Oct. 2007, 3rd full term.

Born: April 26, 1946, Chico, CA

Home: Lowell

Education: Attended MI St. U., Smith Col., B.A. 1968, Boston U., J.D. 1988

Professional Career: Social worker; Practicing attorney; Dean of external affairs, Middlesex Comm. Col., 1997-2007.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: widowed , 3 children

Democrat Niki Tsongas, who won the seat in a 2007 special election, is the widow of Paul Tsongas and now a political force in her own right. She has kept a lower profile than many of her Massachusetts colleagues, but has gained increasing recognition for her work on ending sexual assaults in the military.

Growing up in an Air Force family, Niki Tsongas (SONG-us) never had a place to call home thanks to her father’s frequent moves. While interning in Washington, D.C., during college, she was invited to a party where she met her future husband, who was an intern for 5th District Republican Rep. Brad Morse. On one of their early dates, he told her of his plans to get involved in electoral politics by running for the Lowell City Council. Niki followed him to Lowell in 1968 to help with his successful campaign for city councilor. They were married soon after. Tsongas stumped for her husband several times during his various campaigns for office. “I couldn’t have run for office if I hadn’t spent time campaigning on my own,” she said.

Paul Tsongas was first elected to the U.S. House in 1974 and to the U.S. Senate four years later. After retiring in 1984 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he regained his health and launched a campaign for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination. Although he won the New Hampshire primary, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton’s surprise second-place finish in the Granite State gave him the momentum to overtake Tsongas, who withdrew in March. The Tsongases moved back to Lowell, and soon thereafter Paul’s cancer returned. He succumbed to the disease in 1997.

While acting as a political adviser to her husband, Tsongas started the first all-woman law firm in Lowell, raised their three daughters, and eventually took a job at Middlesex Community College as the dean of external affairs. When Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan retired in July 2007 to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, Tsongas decided to run for the seat. Noting that Massachusetts had not had a female House member in more than 25 years, Tsongas was also motivated by what she saw as the need for change in Washington and her strong disagreement with the Bush administration on the Iraq war.

Facing four other Democrats in a September primary, she was the early favorite. Her most formidable challenge came from former Lowell Mayor Eileen Donoghue. Tsongas drew heavily on her ties to Lowell and emphasized her husband’s years representing the district, but she erred during a debate in saying she spent 10 years in Washington representing the 5th District, a statement that actually described her husband’s career. Tsongas’s opponents seized on the comment to highlight her lack of elective experience and criticized her for moving away from Lowell to nearby Charlestown. Tsongas said she moved to be closer to her daughters, who were attending college in Boston. Tsongas edged out Donoghue, 36% to 31%. Tsongas lost nearly 2-to-1 in Lowell but won most of the other towns.

In the general election, Tsongas faced a Republican with an intensely personal story and a recognizable name in the district. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Ogonowski’s brother, John, was the pilot of the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11. Each candidate sought to wrap the George W. Bush administration around the other. Ogonowski criticized Tsongas for supporting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, which Bush favored. Tsongas attacked Ogonowski for not supporting the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, then up for renewal in Congress. Both national parties spent heavily on the race, and EMILY’s List got involved for Tsongas. Her victory was surprisingly close, 51%-45%. Ogonowski won 11 towns, mostly in the northern part of the district. Tsongas handily took Lowell and Lawrence, plus the area closer to Boston.

In the House, Tsongas has been a staunch liberal who has backed her party on all major votes. But she also ardently backs pay-as-you-go legislation requiring new spending to be offset, calling it a “critical first step” toward addressing the deficit. She successfully reduced the size of an excise tax on medical device manufacturers that was included in the health care overhaul law, and then joined Republicans in an effort to repeal it in the 112th Congress (2011-12). She said the tax hurts small Massachusetts companies.

On the Armed Services Committee, Tsongas is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. She has pushed for reductions of U.S. forces in Iraq and demanded a more defined strategy for Afghanistan. She got provisions into the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill speeding up development of lightweight body armor and protecting the legal rights of sexual assault victims. She helped persuade the Pentagon in 2012 to have assault cases reviewed by colonels rather than by company commanders, who often know the alleged assailants. Her efforts were featured in the documentary The Invisible War, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013.

After her tough contests a year earlier, Tsongas was reelected in 2008 without opposition. The 2010 election was a far different story. After the surprise victory of Republican Sen. Scott Brown showed that the Democrats’ hold on Massachusetts had its limits, Tsongas drew seven Republican and four independent challengers. The eventual GOP nominee was Jon Golnik, a former Wall Street currency trader who enjoyed tea party backing.

Golnik invoked standard tea party themes of individual power over government control while blasting Tsongas’ votes on President Barack Obama’s health care bill and other legislation. But he had to compete with a higher-profile gubernatorial election as well as the incumbent’s overwhelming financial advantage—Tsongas raised more than $1.9 million to his $400,000. She won with nearly 55% of the vote. Golik returned for a rematch in 2012. But in a year in which Obama easily carried Massachusetts, Tsongas coasted with 66%. She considered, but ultimately decided against, running for the open Senate seat vacated in 2013 when Democrat John Kerry became secretary of State.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3411

(202) 226-0771

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1714
Washington, DC 20515-2103

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3411

(202) 226-0771

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1714
Washington, DC 20515-2103

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

(978) 459-1907

126 John Street Suite 12
Lowell, MA 01852

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

(978) 459-1907

126 John Street Suite 12
Lowell, MA 01852

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

15 Union Street
Lawrence, MA 01840-1445

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

15 Union Street
Lawrence, MA 01840-1445

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Haverhill Citizens Center Room 4
Haverhill, MA 01830

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Haverhill Citizens Center Room 4
Haverhill, MA 01830

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Frank D. Walker Building Room 106
Marlborough, MA 01752

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Frank D. Walker Building Room 106
Marlborough, MA 01752

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Fitchburg State University Center for Professional Studies
Fitchburg, MA 01420

DISTRICT OFFICE

(978) 459-0101

Fitchburg State University Center for Professional Studies
Fitchburg, MA 01420

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 1454
Lowell, MA 01853

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(978) 458-6454

PO Box 1454
Lowell, MA 01853

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Agriculture

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Arts

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Banking

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Campaign

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Commerce

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Communication

Vanna Howard
Greater Lowell Regional Director; Immigration Specialist

Consumers

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Economics

Jane Adams
Deputy District Director

jane.adams@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Vanna Howard
Greater Lowell Regional Director; Immigration Specialist

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Education

Mitra Nelson
Domestic Policy and Communications Fellow; Teach for America Fellow

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Energy

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Jane Adams
Deputy District Director

jane.adams@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Family

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Finance

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

Foreign

Sean Duggan
Military Legislative Assistant

Grants

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Gun Issues

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Health

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Homeland Security

Sean Duggan
Military Legislative Assistant

Ken Christopher
Veterans' & Military Liaison

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Housing

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Intelligence

Sean Duggan
Military Legislative Assistant

Intergovernmental

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Internet

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Medicare

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Military

Sean Duggan
Military Legislative Assistant

Katie Enos
Chief of Staff

katie.enos@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Ken Christopher
Veterans' & Military Liaison

Will Babor
Air Force Fellow

will.babor@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-3411

Minorities

Vanna Howard
Greater Lowell Regional Director; Immigration Specialist

Public Affairs

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Recreation

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Jane Adams
Deputy District Director

jane.adams@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

Religion

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Science

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Seniors

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

June Black
District Director

june.black@mail.house.gov
(978) 459-0101

Small Business

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

Social Security

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Tax

Bob Schneider
Legislative Assistant

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Technology

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Russell Pandres
Economic Development Assistant

Urban Affairs

Becky Cairns
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Sean Duggan
Military Legislative Assistant

Ken Christopher
Veterans' & Military Liaison

Patrick Kenney
Constituent Services Manager

Women

Sara Outterson
Legislative Director; Washington Director

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 212,119
Percent: 65.98%
Jonathan Golnik
Votes: 109,372
Percent: 34.02%
2012 PRIMARY
Niki Tsongas
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 122,858
Percent: 54.84%
Jonathan Golnik
Votes: 94,646
Percent: 42.25%
2010 PRIMARY
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 29,773
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 225,947
Percent: 98.71%
2008 PRIMARY
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 40,248
Percent: 100.0%
2007 SPECIAL
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 54,359
Percent: 51.25%
Jim Ogonowski
Votes: 47,782
Percent: 45.05%
2007 PRIMARY
Niki Tsongas
Votes: 19,821
Percent: 35.52%
Eileen Donoghue
Votes: 17,385
Percent: 31.15%
James Eldridge
Votes: 8,042
Percent: 14.41%
Barry Finegold
Votes: 6,999
Percent: 12.54%
James Miceli
Votes: 3,297
Percent: 5.91%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (55%), 2008 (99%), 2007 special (51%)

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