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

Biography

Elected: 2008, 3rd term.

Born: June 18, 1949, Amsterdam, NY

Home: Amsterdam, NY

Education: Clarkson U., B.S. 1981

Professional Career: NY Dept. of Transportation, 1972-74; NY Dept. of Public Service, 1974-83; Pres. & CEO, NY St. Energy Research & Development Authority, 2007-08

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Single

Democrat Paul Tonko, elected in 2008, came to Congress with an extensive background in energy issues and parlayed his expertise into a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

The grandson of Polish immigrants, Tonko was born in the old mill town of Amsterdam, N.Y., where he still lives. His working-class background gave him an appreciation for the “underdog” that remains the underpinning of his political beliefs. Attracted from a young age to public service, he built his career in state government, first at the New York Department of Transportation and then as an engineer at the Department of Public Service, the state’s utilities regulator.

In 1974, at age 26, he became the youngest person ever elected to the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors. He became board chairman in 1981. Tonko won a seat in the New York Assembly in a 1983 special election and served for nearly a quarter century. He won passage of a law requiring health insurers to cover most mental illnesses and another requiring social workers to report all cases of suspected child abuse to the state. But he exercised his greatest influence over state energy policy, serving as chairman of the Assembly’s energy committee from 1992 to 2007, when he resigned to accept an appointment as head of the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority.

When Democratic Rep. Michael McNulty decided against seeking an 11th term in 2008, Tonko got into the contest to succeed him. In the primary, he faced Phil Steck, an Albany County legislator, and Tracey Brooks, a former staffer for New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton. Both enjoyed a head start raising money. But most of the local Democratic establishment lined up behind Tonko. He also won important union endorsements, as well as the backing of the state’s Working Families Party. With few differences between the candidates on major issues, the local support likely made the difference. Outraised and outspent by both Brooks and Steck, Tonko sailed to victory over both.

In the general election, Tonko faced Republican Jim Buhrmaster, a Schenectady County legislator who hoped that his appeal to independents would help him overcome the registration advantage for Democrats in the district. But Tonko won with 62% of the vote. Buhrmaster received 35%, and Steck, who ran as an independent, got 3%.

In the House, Tonko was among those tied for most-liberal House member in 2011, according to National Journal’s annual rankings. (He dropped to 98th in 2012 after taking some moderate positions on social legislation.) He has focused on the issue he knows best, energy policy. Shortly after joining Energy and Commerce in late 2012, he was appointed as ranking Democrat on the panel’s Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, where he is at the vanguard of defending against frequent GOP attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2011, he sponsored an amendment to a spending bill seeking to protect EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. He also has sought to undo Republican cutbacks to the Weatherization Assistance Program helping low-income families and the elderly save money by improving their homes’ energy efficiency through insulation and by replacing windows and doors. He joined Republican Rep. Chris Gibson on a 2011 bill to simplify and improve the tax credit for fuel cell-powered industrial vehicles.

Earlier, he got a bill through the House in September 2009 creating an $800 million research program in wind energy technologies, which would benefit GE in his district. Another of his bills, which passed the same year, created a research program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in power generation systems that convert heat into energy. In 2010, Tonko got a provision in a House-passed oil spill bill following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to speed up the response to future spills.

On other issues, Tonko worked to expand low-income children’s access to healthy meals and to improve engineering education in schools. His efforts to rein in pay for government contractors have won him some attention. In 2012, he and Democrat Jackie Speier called for capping salaries for contracting executives at the rate of the president’s annual salary of $400,000, down from a maximum allowable level of $770,000. But Republicans blocked them from offering their amendment on the floor as part of the fiscal 2013 defense bill.

Tonko has had little trouble winning reelection. Albany Times Union columnist Marv Cermak described him in 2011 as “a super-duper campaigner who shows up all over the place” and said, “If there is a chink in his armor, colleagues and media types agree it’s his penchant for long-winded speeches.”

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2463
Washington, DC 20515-3220

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2463
Washington, DC 20515-3220

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

61 Columbia Street Fourth Floor
Albany, NY 12210

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 465-0700

(518) 427-5107

61 Columbia Street Fourth Floor
Albany, NY 12210-2749

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 843-3400

(518) 843-8874

61 Church Street Room 309
Amsterdam, NY 12010-4424

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

61 Church Street Room 309
Amsterdam, NY 12010

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

105 Jay Street Room 15
Schenectady, NY 12305

DISTRICT OFFICE

(518) 374-4547

(518) 374-7908

105 Jay Street Room 15
Schenectady, NY 12305-1905

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 225-5076

(202) 225-5077

911 Central Avenue Unit 221
Albany, NY 12206

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

911 Central Avenue Unit 221
Albany, NY 12206

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Animal Rights

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Appropriations

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Budget

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Campaign

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Commerce

Marilyn Smith
Grants Coordinator; Business Liaison

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Communication

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Disaster

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Education

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Environment

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Family

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Foreign

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Govt Ops

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Grants

Marilyn Smith
Grants Coordinator; Business Liaison

Gun Issues

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Health

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Homeland Security

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Housing

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Intelligence

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Internet

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Judiciary

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Land Use

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Military

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Minorities

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Privacy

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Public Works

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Recreation

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Science

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Tax

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Technology

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Trade

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Transportation

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Brendan Larkin
Senior Policy Advisor

Veterans

Jeff Morgan
Legislative Director

Women

Emily Duhovny
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2014 GENERAL
Paul Tonko
Votes: 118,993
Percent: 61.18%
James Fischer
Votes: 75,491
Percent: 38.82%
2012 GENERAL
Paul Tonko
Votes: 203,400
Percent: 68.44%
Robert Dieterich
Votes: 93,778
Percent: 31.56%
2012 PRIMARY
Paul Tonko
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Paul Tonko
Votes: 124,889
Percent: 59.25%
Theodore Danz
Votes: 85,752
Percent: 40.68%
2010 PRIMARY
Paul Tonko
Unopposed
2008 GENERAL
Paul Tonko
Votes: 171,286
Percent: 62.09%
James Buhrmaster
Votes: 96,599
Percent: 35.02%
2008 PRIMARY
Paul Tonko
Votes: 15,932
Percent: 39.5%
Tracey Brooks
Votes: 12,166
Percent: 30.16%
Phillip Steck
Votes: 7,498
Percent: 18.59%
Darius Shahinfar
Votes: 4,002
Percent: 9.92%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (59%), 2008 (62%)

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