Paul Tsongas

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Paul Tsongas
Senator Paul Tsongas.jpg
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 2, 1985
Preceded by Edward Brooke
Succeeded by John Kerry
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1979
Preceded by Paul W. Cronin
Succeeded by James Shannon
Personal details
Born Paul Efthemios Tsongas
(1941-02-14)February 14, 1941
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died January 18, 1997(1997-01-18) (aged 55)
Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Niki Sauvage (1969–1997)
Children 3
Education Dartmouth College (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Harvard University (MPP)

Paul Efthemios Tsongas (/ˈsɒŋɡəs/; February 14, 1941 – January 18, 1997) was an American politician. He represented Massachusetts in both houses of the United States Congress, holding office from 1975 to 1985. He won seven states as a candidate in the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, losing the nomination to Bill Clinton.

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Tsongas graduated from Yale Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. After working for the Peace Corps and as an aide to Congressman F. Bradford Morse, Tsongas successively won election as a city councilor and county commissioner. In 1974, he won election to the United States House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts's 5th congressional district. In Massachusetts's 1978 Senate election, he defeated incumbent Republican Senator Edward Brooke. In Congress, Tsongas established a reputation as a social liberal and fiscal conservative.

Tsongas was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1983 and declined to seek re-election in 1984. He returned to politics after undergoing a successful bone marrow transplant. He experienced early success in the 1992 Democratic presidential primaries, winning the New Hampshire primary, but withdrew from the race in March 1992 and endorsed Clinton. An opponent of deficit spending, Tsongas co-founded the Concord Coalition. He died in 1997 of complications from pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphona.

Early life

Tsongas was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, along with a twin sister, Thaleia, to a once working-class family who came to own a very successful dry cleaning business in Lowell.[1] His father, Efthemios George Tsongas, was a Greek immigrant, and his mother, Katina (née Pappas; originally Panagiotopoulos), was of Greek descent.[2]

Tsongas attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1962 with an A.B. in economics, then Yale Law School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University before settling in Lowell, Massachusetts.

He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia from 1962–1964, and as Peace Corps Country Director in the West Indies from 1967–1968.

In 1967 Tsongas, working as an aide to Congressman F. Bradford Morse, met Niki Sauvage, who was spending the summer in Arlington, Virginia. They were married in 1969, and had three daughters: Ashley, Katina, and Molly. Niki Tsongas is currently a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

When Tsongas ran for office, out of concern that people would mispronounce his last name, there were bumper stickers saying "Tsenator Tsongas".

Political career

Tsongas first entered politics as a city councillor, elected to the Lowell City Council in 1969 where he served two consecutive terms. Tsongas went on to serve as a county commissioner of Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In 1974 he ran for United States House of Representatives from a district anchored by Lowell. The district had elected only three Democrats in its entire existence and had been in Republican hands continuously since 1895. However, in the massive Democratic wave of the post-Watergate election of 1974, he defeated freshman Republican Paul W. Cronin by a 21-point margin. He was reelected in 1976, becoming the first Democrat to hold the district for more than one term. Increasingly popular and well-liked in Massachusetts, in 1978 he ran for and was elected to the Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Edward Brooke by a 10-point margin.

In 1983, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma[3] and in 1984 announced his retirement from the Senate. His seat went to fellow Democrat, 2004 presidential nominee and United States Secretary of State John Kerry. After undergoing a bone marrow transplant to treat the disease in 1986 and receiving a clean bill of health from doctors in 1991,[4] he returned to politics, running for his party's nomination for President in 1992. Until the 1992 campaign, Tsongas had never lost an election. He was the first former Peace Corps volunteer elected to the U.S. Senate (1978). (In 1974, he and Christopher Dodd were the first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.)

Political positions

Tsongas was generally viewed as a social liberal and an economic moderate. He was especially known for his efforts in Congress in support of historic preservation and environmental conservation on one hand, and for his pro-business economic policies on the other.[citation needed]

He played a major role while in the House in the creation of Lowell National Historical Park, as well as in the establishment or expansion of a number of other National Park System areas.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska

He played an equally key role later in the Senate, working closely with then Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, in successful passage of the massive Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which had been hopelessly deadlocked in the Senate since its original passed by the House in 1978.[citation needed]

Relative to business and economic matters, Tsongas focused in particular on the Federal budget deficit, a cause he continued to champion even after his presidential primary campaign ended, by co-founding the Concord Coalition.

Tsongas was criticized on occasion by opponents as a Reaganomics-style politician, and as being closer to Republicans with regard to such issues. The Boston Herald editorialized that his political philosophy had "far more in common" with 1990s-era Republican Mitt Romney (who crossed over to vote for Tsongas in the 1992 primaries) than with traditional Massachusetts Democrats like Ted Kennedy.[5] In the mid-1980s, he shocked many of the members of the Americans for Democratic Action by telling them that they should focus more on economic growth than wealth redistribution.

He once quipped, "If anyone thinks the words 'government' and 'efficiency' belong in the same sentence, we have counselling available."[6]

Presidential campaign


Tsongas for President Campaign Bumper Sticker

Described as a "long shot campaign" by the New York Times, Paul Tsongas was the first Democrat to launch a bid for the '92 Presidency, on April 30, 1991 in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.[7] Tsongas campaign was banking heavily on early success in New Hampshire. Like many of the candidates, Tsongas ignored the 1992 contest in Iowa, which was expected to go overwhelmingly to Iowa's Senator Tom Harkin. Tsongas hoped that his New England independence and fiscal conservatism from neighboring Massachusetts would appeal to Granite Staters. He achieved recognition for the bluntness and clarity of his plan, distributing a short book titled A Call to Economic Arms,[8] which focused on such issues as the growing federal deficit. When asked why he did not have a tax cut plan like the other candidates, Tsongas famously answered, "I'm not trying to play Santa Claus."[9]

New Hampshire delegates for Tsongas on the DNC convention floor..

During the early weeks of 1992, things seemed to be going Tsongas's way when one of the potential major candidates, Bill Clinton, stumbled over issues involving marital infidelity and avoidance of the military draft during Vietnam. While Clinton was hurt by these issues, the damage seemed to bottom out several weeks before the New Hampshire primary. While Tsongas won the most votes and was declared the winner of the New Hampshire primary, the narrow victory (33.20% to 24.78%) gave each candidate 9 delegates.[citation needed] Clinton's adviser James Carville tagged Clinton with the label "the Comeback Kid" and claimed that Clinton's campaign was back on track. While ostensibly the front-runner, Tsongas was already considered by many to be the underdog to Clinton given the support the Arkansas Governor had heading into Super Tuesday.

Following the New Hampshire primary, Tsongas was unable to match Clinton's fundraising. Clinton later went on to win most of the Super Tuesday primaries. Tsongas did go on to win delegate contests in Delaware, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Utah, and Massachusetts, but his campaign never recovered from Clinton's comeback; Clinton won the primaries of most of the more populous and delegate-rich states.


Eventually, Tsongas pulled out of the race on 19 March 1992, and endorsed Clinton.[10][11] However, a number of the Tsongas delegates continued to support the former Senator, and voted for Tsongas on the first ballot at the Convention. The roll call yielded 289 votes for Tsongas, placing him in 3rd place behind Clinton and then-former California Governor, Jerry Brown.

Tsongas vs Clinton TIME magazine cover

Post-senate career

In late 1994, Tsongas briefly led an effort to establish a third party, to be led by someone with "national authority", suggesting General Colin Powell for that role.[12] By that time, he was considered "the most popular political figure in Massachusetts."[5]

Tsongas's gravestone in Lowell Cemetery

He died on January 18, 1997, at age 55 of complications from pneumonia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.[13] On January 27, 1998, the Tsongas Arena in Lowell was dedicated in his honor.[14]

In a special election held on October 16, 2007, his widow Niki won the Massachusetts Congressional seat that Tsongas once held.[15]

Preservation Massachusetts, a statewide nonprofit focused on preserving Massachusetts history, has an annual Paul Tsongas Award to honor restoration workers in the state.[16]

Electoral history

Massachusetts 5th district, 1974[17]

  • Paul Tsongas (D) - 99,518 (60.64%)
  • Paul W. Cronin (R) (inc.) - 64,596 (39.36%)

Massachusetts 5th district, 1976[18]

  • Paul Tsongas (D) (inc.) - 144,217 (67.31%)
  • Roger P. Durkin (D) - 70,036 (32.69%)

Democratic primary for the United States Senate from Massachusetts, 1978[19]

Massachusetts United States Senate election, 1978[20]

  • Paul Tsongas (D) - 1,093,283 (55.06%)
  • Edward Brooke (R) (inc.) - 890,584 (44.85%)
  • Others - 1,833 (0.09%)

United States presidential election, 1992 (Democratic primaries)

See also


  1. ^ Sara Rimer - "Hometown Recalls Paul Tsongas as Hero Who Inspired Renewal and Pride", New York Times, January 23, 1997. Retrieved 2015-08-27
  2. ^ The Journal of Psychohistory - Google Books. Retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  3. ^ New York Times, Ex-Senator Gets Transplant, September 5, 1986. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
  4. ^ "Tsongas's Cancer Battle". The New York Times. 2014-01-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-17. 
  5. ^ a b Kornacki, Steve (March 7, 2011) Mitt Romney and his five political lives, Salon
  6. ^ Kramer, Michael. (March 2, 1992) "The Political Interest: Who Has the Best Plan for Fixing the Economy?", Time
  7. ^ Toner, Robin (May 1, 1991). "Tsongas Is First Entrant in 92 Presidential Race". New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ A Call to Economic Arms Archived June 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ The 1992 Campaign: Media; Old Queries Greet Tsongas on Climb
  10. ^ Toner, Robin (20 March 1992). "THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: Primaries; TSONGAS ABANDONS CAMPAIGN". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2017. 
  11. ^ Butterfield, Fox (23 February 1993). "AIDE TO TSONGAS INDICTED IN FRAUD". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 April 2017. 
  12. ^ Tsongas Pushing "President Powell". TIME (1994-12-13). Retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  13. ^ Paul Tsongas, Who Made Presidential Bid, Dies at 55
  14. ^ Tsongas Arena, Lowell MA, Entertainment Venue, Sports, Concerts, Tradeshows, Lock Monsters, RiverHawks Archived December 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ ABC News: Dem Senator's Widow Wins House Seat
  16. ^ "Preservation Awards Dinner". Preservation Massachusetts. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  17. ^ Our Campaigns - MA District 05 Race - Nov 04, 1974
  18. ^ Our Campaigns - MA District 05 Race - Nov 02, 1976
  19. ^ Our Campaigns - MA US Senate- D Primary Race - Sep 19, 1978
  20. ^ Our Campaigns - MA US Senate Race - Nov 07, 1978

Further reading

External links

  • Paul Tsongas Congressional Collection, University of Massachusetts Lowell Libraries
  • United States Congress. "Paul Tsongas (id: T000393)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. 
  • Peace Corps bio. of Paul Tsongas
  • Concord Coalition bio. of Paul Tsongas
  • Tsongas's campaign TV ad on YouTube
  • Sen. Christopher Dodd's Tribute to Sen. Paul Tsongas (Senate — January 28, 1997) at the Wayback Machine (archived January 7, 2010)
  • Ubben Lecture at DePauw University
  • Paul Tsongas at Find a Grave
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul W. Cronin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
James Shannon
Party political offices
Preceded by
John J. Droney
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
John Kerry
Preceded by
Robert Byrd, Alan Cranston, Al Gore, Gary Hart, Bennett Johnston, Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neill, Don Riegle, Paul Sarbanes, Jim Sasser
Response to the State of the Union address
Served alongside: Les AuCoin, Joe Biden, Bill Bradley, Robert Byrd, Tom Daschle, Bill Hefner, Barbara Kennelly, George Miller, Tip O'Neill, Paul Simon, Tim Wirth
Succeeded by
Max Baucus, Joe Biden, David Boren, Barbara Boxer, Robert Byrd, Dante Fascell, Bill Gray, Tom Harkin, Dee Huddleston, Carl Levin, Tip O'Neill, Claiborne Pell
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Edward Brooke
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
Served alongside: Ted Kennedy
Succeeded by
John Kerry
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